The Biology of Your Personality

The Biology of Your Personality

You are surrounded by so many different personalities. This can be overwhelming or disconcerting for some, while others embrace it. Even though you are experiencing different personalities in situations like these, it is how you intermingle that indicates what might be the biology of your personality. 

Big Think reports that,

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “Personality refers to individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving.”

According to biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, PhD, “personality breaks down into two essential forces, culture and temperament. Culture is how we’re conditioned to act growing up. Temperament is biological. What Dr. Fisher has discovered she calls, “Traits of temperament.”  

More and more social constructs are being torn down upon the simple fact that each one of us is made up of a biological stew that includes more or less of a particular “feel good” hormone or neurotransmitter. As this is understood more by science, it could be easier to learn to navigate your reactions to your surroundings. This could reduce or remedy such presentations as shyness, anxiety, depression and so much more. 

See if you can determine what type of biology your personality is made up of and some actions you might be able to take to adjust, well, anything you would like to adjust. 

Your Hormonal Sauce

The “feel good” hormones and neurotransmitters that play a role in personality are known as the four brain systems: dopamine, testosterone, estrogen/oxytocin, and serotonin. Each one of these holds a particular trait that can be linked to a certain, culturally labeled, personality described here:

Testosterone – When testosterone is dominant, these people are direct and decisive, aggressive, tough-minded, emotionally contained, competitive and logical. They have good spatial skills and are good at rule-based systems, such as math or music. 

Estrogen – The estrogen type is intuitive, introspective, imaginative, empathetic and trusting. They’re emotionally intelligent.

Serotonin – Serotonin types are very social, traditional, calm and controlled, conscientious and detail-oriented. They love structure and making plans. 

Dopamine – High dopamine levels may present as being a curious, adventurous, spontaneous, enthusiastic and independent personality. These people are risk takers, have high energy, present are mental flexibility as well as being open-minded. 

These hormones and neurotransmitters show some specific traits that may apply to your personality. According to Dr. Fisher, there are also four temperament traits.

The Four Temperaments: Which One Are You?

The four temperament traits are driven by one of the above hormones or neurotransmitters. These apply to a man or woman and are labeled: Explorers, Builders, Directors, and Negotiators. Dr. Fisher describes each trait to Big Think.

Explorers (driven by dopamine – the pleasure neurotransmitter)

  • Curious
  • Energetic
  • Dopamine gives a sense of elation, accomplishment, and reward
  • Anything that gives pleasure, from food to alcohol to sex, increases dopamine production 
  • Thrill seekers who are open-minded, creative, and cerebral
  • Crave adventure and novelty
  • Easily bored 
  • May be impulsive and lack introspection 
  • Forever outward looking

Builders (driven by serotonin which gives a sense of relaxation, belonging, and comfort)

  • Cautious
  • Sociable
  • Follow the rules
  • Respectful
  • Meticulous
  • Orderly
  • Methodical
  • Good with numbers
  • My be religious 
  • Creatures of habit 
  • Practice self-control

Directors (driven by the testosterone system) 

  • Honest
  • Confident
  • Assertive
  • Analytical
  • Understand math, music, computers or any “rule-based systems” 
  • Have higher visual-spatial perception, which may make them good at sports 
  • Detail-oriented 
  • Experts in a certain fields, but may not have too many interests beyond that 
  • May lack empathy or sensitivity
  • Less verbally astute
  • Less understanding of others emotions
  • Give less eye contact
  • May be prone to being flooded by their emotions,
  • May have outbursts, particularly of anger

Negotiators (driven by estrogen – closely related to oxytocin, the “calm and cuddle” hormone) 

  • Trusting
  • Generous
  • Imaginative
  • Social
  • Open-minded
  • Nurturing
  • Empathetic
  • Excellent verbal skills

Most people are a combination of all these traits but are usually dominant in one or two. Dr. Fisher goes on to describe how these traits can be broken down into subsets which shows the possibility of being strong in one temperament but how one may be driven by the pull of another. Overall, simply being aware of the four major temperaments will give you a good gauge.

Knowing the biology of your personality as well as determining other people’s traits could give you the advantage of understanding rather than jumping to judgmental conclusions. It can also help when choosing a mate. Take a look at yourself and others through the lens of Dr. Fisher’s analysis and you just may create and entirely new life lens of your own.