|Clinicians Digest Jan/Feb - Page 5|
Who's Attracted to Whom?
Matchmaking is something most people are tempted to engage in at some point on behalf of family members or friends, often with unfortunate results. Now Rutgers University anthropologist Helen Fisher, who's studied love around the world, reports that by studying 28,000 men and women located through the Internet dating site chemistry.com, she's discovered how some patterns of brain chemistry influence attraction.
Up to now, the research on attraction has been contradictory at best. As Fisher points out, studies yield conflicting results on even the most fundamental question of compatibility—whether opposites or people with similar interests and personalities are best suited for each other.
Several years ago, Fisher's transcultural and evolutionary research into the emotional and biological underpinnings of love led her to neuroscience. That's when she began to realize that people's personalities seem to be influenced predominantly by the activities of four neurochemical systems, represented by dopamine, serotonin, testosterone, or estrogen. While personality classifications have been around since Hippocrates in the 5th century B.C., Fisher believes she's found some of the neurochemical bases for four different "biobehavioral syndromes," commonly known as personality types. "We're all a mix of all four, of course, but we express some more than others," she says.
Dopamine-dominants (Explorers) tend to be novelty-seeking, curious, creative, irreverent, liberal, optimistic, mentally flexible, and spontaneously generous. Think John F. Kennedy or Angelina Jolie.
Serotonin-dominants (Builders) are calm, social, interested in community, persistent, fact-oriented, loyal, conscientious, conventional, traditional, protective, and cautious but not fearful. Think Colin Powell.
Testosterone-dominants (Directors) are analytical, logical, tough-minded, decisive, exacting, ambitious, competitive, emotionally contained, and rank-oriented. Think Vince Lombardi.
Estrogen-dominants (Negotiators) see the big picture, think holistically (Fisher calls it "web-thinking"), have linguistic and people skills, are emotionally expressive, intuitive, imaginative, introspective, and want to understand themselves and everyone else. Think Bill Clinton and loads of therapists.