While psychologists have known that our personalities are formed by some combination of nature and nurture, they’ve primarily studied how the effects of our upbringing influence our ways of dealing with the world. However, recent groundbreaking research has revealed that the chemicals in our brain form a basic framework for our personality.
These studies found that we inherit a preponderance of one of 4 neurotransmitters — dopamine, serotonin, testosterone, or estrogen. Each of these substances shapes our brain differently and is responsible for determining about 50 percent of our personality. These chemicals cause certain regions of our brain to be more highly developed, which exerts a significant influence over how we think and act.
Four distinct personality types — Explorer, Builder, Director and Negotiator — have been identified by Dr. Helen Fisher, a prominent researcher at Rutgers University. Her studies over the past decade have shown that our inherited biological temperament combines equally with the character traits we develop in childhood to determine our personality.
The personality type that has high inherited levels of dopamine is called the Explorer. The traits associated with this type include an appetite for seeking novelty, a propensity for risk taking, a need for spontaneity, and elevated levels of creativity, curiosity, enthusiasm, optimism and mental flexibility.
Explorers can also be impulsive, restless, and easily bored when they’re not engaged in an activity that interests them. Hence, they can be disorganized, poor planners, and self-indulgent. They can be irreverent and independent in their relationships, sometimes ignoring the rules of conduct that others cherish. Explorers can become aggressive and disagreeable when their need to do what they want when they want is thwarted.
Men and women who are explorers tend to have liberal political, religious, and sexual views. They are the least judgmental of the four types, and because of their live and let live philosophy of life they’re able to handle criticism fairly easily. They’re very adaptable and can play a variety of different roles depending on the situation.
People who have a preponderance of serotonin in their system are known as Builders. By nature they’re very loyal to their social networks, fond of rules, and traditional in their values. Their temperament tends to be calm, cautious but not fearful, persistent, and orderly. This constellation of traits makes them skilled at managing people and building social connections.
Builders are conscientious, a trait comprised of being dutiful and deliberative. Conscientious people follow a strict code of conduct and are prudent in their planning. They’re often described as prepared, methodical, self-disciplined, orderly, organized and dependable.
Because Builders rely on their social system to maintain their sense of well-being, they’re crushed by criticism. So they strive to stay in good standing within their social circle by doing what they perceive to be the right things. But sometimes Builders can be dogmatic if they believe that their way is the only right way. This moral rigidity can make them stubborn and judgmental.
Testosterone dominates the brains of Directors. This helps them to be tough-minded, independent, pragmatic, focused, resourceful and ambitious. They’re often gifted mechanically, mathematically, athletically, or musically. They like figuring out how things work and have suburb spatial skills. Of all of the personality types, Directors value knowledge and education the most.
Directors are decisive and direct, largely because they’re so logical and unencumbered by the conflicts brought on by empathy and emotion. Their analytical approach to life works well until they’re challenged by the people whose feelings and needs they’ve ignored. When their need to be in control in order to achieve their goals is frustrated because others have become actively resistant, they can completely lose their cool demeanor and become enraged.
With higher amounts of estrogen in their systems, Negotiators are adept at reading emotions, expressing feelings, and relating to people. It’s crucial for them to connect at a deeply personal level.
Negotiators want to live in a world of win-win, and they have the natural talent for creating mutually satisfying outcomes. Their greatest gift is empathy, which enables them to consider the needs of everyone involved. They intuitively understand interpersonal situations and tend to trust their gut feelings when making decisions.
Negotiators see the big picture, and their vivid imagination allows them to create connections between all of the components and individuals involved. But negotiators can be indecisive because they see so many viewpoints, and they often placate rather than confront situations that are not working well. They’re always seeking agreement and get depressed when it doesn’t happen.