While most people believe that humans are either defined by their nurture, or their nature, some personality theorists have proposed that who we are is a balancing act between our biology and our upbringing. Here, we dive into what our biochemistry has to do with our personality, and as it turns out — the chemicals we most abundantly have coursing through our brains are accountable for so much more than just making us happy, or sad.
What is personality to you?
When you truly think about that question, I am sure you recall all of the times someone has complimented who you are as a human being. Our whole lives we are primed with statements like “You must be an introvert!” or “You’re so outgoing, what a great personality trait to have!” and we don’t think about it further. Personality, in a general sense of the word, feels like something we have never had to dive deeply into. It was simply always a part of us.
By definition, the American Psychological Association, states that “Personality refers to individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving.”
According to biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, personality breaks down into two very strict categories.
Traits Of Character
Traits of character refer to traits that an individual acquires through experience. This has everything to do with the nurture aspect of the personality debate. The things you did as a child, your family values and interests, the way your community expressed itself in front of you, how you saw people treat one another, the things those closest to you found sad, or funny, or hurtful, or offensive, etc. All of these cultural forces came together to create your traits of character.
Traits Of Temperament
Traits Of Temperament refers to traits that have biological underpinnings. Traits of temperament are heritable, relatively stable across the life course and linked to specific genes, hormones and/or neurotransmitter systems. It is believed that 50 percent of who we are stems from our biology.
Dr. Fisher spent years sifting through personality theory, studies on genetics, hormones, pharmaceuticals, brain architecture, neurotransmitters, and so on. Through her research, she discovered a pattern. Dr. Fisher found that there was a multitude of personality traits linked within just four brain systems — the dopamine system, the testosterone system, the estrogen/oxytocin system, and the serotonin system. If you are chemically driven by dopamine, for example, you will showcase different traits than someone who is chemically driven by serotonin. This gives you a different kind of personality temperament.
With this knowledge, Dr.Fischer created a questionnaire that directly sorts human beings into different personality categories based off of their neurological activity. If you would like to take the questionnaire, you can do so by clicking here.
The four traits of temperament are:
Explorers are people who are mainly driven by dopamine, which is known as the pleasure neurotransmitter. These people express traits related to novelty, experience and adventure seeking, impulsivity, energy and enthusiasm. People expressive of certain genes in the dopamine system also tend to lack introspection; they have a hard time looking within themselves. These men and women are also often intellectually curious, mentally flexible and creative.
An Explorer takes being spontaneous to another level. They will see something on television, or read something in the newspaper, and they’ll feel deeply called to going to that certain place, or trying that activity. Within hours, they can have a plane ticket, or be jumping out of a plane. Explorers are the embodiment of the term “there is never a dull moment” and these adventurers live to discover new people, places, things, and ideas. Everyone close to them would define them as highly independent individuals.
Explorers have more energy than most people, and they tend to be restless, fast paced, and flighty. They are highly curious, and are constantly generating new ideas or creative insights. Because of this, they easily shift their attention from one thing to another, and can sometimes find themselves juggling many different tasks, dreams, and life plans at once. This type is highly addicted to whatever it is that brings them pleasure. So although most people would read this and think that a classic Explorer would be someone who is an adventure junkie, many simply just exercise their passion for what they love in a heightened way. For example, if someone loves reading, they will read for 10 hours straight. If someone likes to travel, they’ll watch every movie related to the place they want to go to. Their temperment doesn’t always push them out the door and into risky, intense situations. They are just obsessive human beings.
People quickly like most Explorers. Generous, and pleasurable to be around, they tend to be playful, sensual, hedonistic, and amusing. However, they can be difficult to deal with, especially in relationships. Explorers do not tolerate boredom well, and they tend to avoid routine of almost any kind.
According to Fisher, Explorers represent 26 percent of all people. When it comes to love, Explorers are a good match for other Explorers – they need someone who in on the same level of energy and spontaneity.
Builders are people who are mainly driven by serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter often associated with happiness, and mood balancing. These people express traits related to sociability, caution, lessened anxiety and close relationships. Elevated activity in the serotonin systems is also linked with following the rules, respecting authority, orderliness, adherence to plans, methods and habits, self-control, precision, interest in details, numeric creativity, and religiosity.
For the Builder, social situations are often fun and relaxing, they feel safe talking to others and they like to network. Strongly driven by duty and loyalty, they often acquire a devoted pack of peers and friends, and are highly respected by these people. Builders are considered to be the true guardians of others.
While Builders are cautious , they are not fearful. They think concretely. They always remember their mistakes and the things that brought them to where they are, and they use that information to move forward accordingly. They learn from everything. These people are not impulsive, and when it comes to money, their actions, or their feelings, they think everything through and take their time when making decisions. Security and structure are important to them. Many Builders are traditional, and they often have a strong moral code. Builders don’t get bored easily, which enables them to be methodical, hardworking, and dependable. Thanks to all these qualities, Builders tend to be regarded as pillars of the community, and are loved by nearly all of those who interact with them.
However, Builders can go overboard. In their quest to do things the right way they can be intolerant of less traditional approaches to living, and work. In other words — they are extremely stubborn, and with their need for order, rules, and schedules, their spontaneity often dwindles. Their stoicism can turn into negativity, their conformity into monotony, and their concrete thinking sometimes makes them too literal.
Like Explorers, Builders pair best with their own type – other Builders – for romance. Because they value security and commitment, marriages between two builders have a great chance of success.
Directors are people who are mainly driven by testosterone, which is a hormone that regulates fertility, muscle mass, fat distribution, and red blood cell production. These people express traits related to enhanced visual-spatial perception and a keen understanding of mechanics, math, engineering or music. Those expressive of testosterone regularly exhibit acute attention to details and have deep but narrow interests. They also tend to be less socially aware, with poorer emotion recognition, less eye contact, less verbal fluency, reduced empathy and extreme sensitivity to social rank. Yet these people are often self-confident, forthright, assertive and emotionally contained, although they also experience more emotional flooding, and are susceptible to flying off the handle in an angry outburst.
Directors are competitive. They strive to be the best, and they have many skills that help them to do so. They are pragmatic, resilient, and decisive. Directors can make up their minds rapidly, even when they are forced to make difficult, life changing decisions. They also are highly focused, and have strong will when it comes to realizing their goals. This means that they are very linear when achieving something, and they have the ability to ignore any and all distractions that may come their way, even when they are personal or emotional. Many Directors are bold in their ideas, and they are willing to take unpopular, even dangerous paths, to get to the truth. They persist, and often get what they want.
The Director often chooses to do a good job rather than please others, making them the least socially skilled of the four types. When preoccupied with work or personal goals, they can appear aloof, distant, even cold, and are generally not interested in making social connections, with the exception of those that excite or benefit them.
With Directors, their abundant confidence can veer into bragging, and their forthrightness can come off as rude to a lot of other types. Because they often see issues in black and white, they miss out on the humanness that often makes up a lot of social, and personal situations, and may feel like they cannot relate to others. Despite this, when they do find those who excite them, Directors make close friends that last lifetimes, and they protect them fiercely.
It is important to note that women as well as men can be dominated by testosterone. According to Fisher’s research, 9.7 percent of females are Directors. Directors make the best love match with Negotiators, whose tenderness will complement their tough-minded nature.
Negotiators are people who are mainly driven by estrogen, which is a hormone that promotes the development and maintenance of female characteristics in the human body.
These people express traits related to contextual, holistic and long-term thinking, as well as linguistic skills, agreeableness, cooperation, intuition, empathy and nurturing. Traits associated with estrogen activities also include generosity and trust, the drive to make social attachments, heightened memory for emotional experiences, keen imagination and mental flexibility. Oxytocin, closely related to oestrogen, is also associated with several prosocial traits, including trust, reading emotions in others and theory of mind.
Negotiators instinctively know what others are thinking and feeling. They effortlessly get to the bottom of someone’s feelings by observing facial expressions, physical gestures, and tone of voice. Their interest in the humanness of others also extends to themselves, making them extremely introspective and self-analytical. These are the types of men and women who enjoy diving deep and journeying into their thoughts.
Not only do Negotiators connect with most on a psychological level, they have a strong ability for remain mentally flexible. When they make decisions, they weigh many variables and consider all of the options when it comes to proceeding; they see everything in a contextual manner, rather than in a linear manner. As a result, they tend to be comfortable with ambiguity. Negotiators can be highly intuitive and creative, and they like to theorize.Negotiators are known for the keen ability when it comes to finding the right words to say. Because of this, alongside their socially agreeable and accommodating nature, their compassion, and their patience — the Negotiator can be very friendly, diplomatic, and authentic.
However, Negotiators can sometimes be too ambiguous, and they may appear wishy-washy to the point of shadiness. Because they’re not willing to confront, they can turn to backstabbing. With their need to examine all the possibilities, they can get bogged down in routine as opposed to action. And in a relationship, their desire to connect and dissect all the subtle meanings between two human beings can become invasive and detrimental.
Like Directors, this personality type is not gender-specific; 20.4 percent of men are Negotiators (compared to 35.8 percent of women). Negotiators will have the best luck in love by pairing with Directors, whose decisiveness will complement their ambiguity.