The Personality Test
American anthropologist Helen Fisher has dedicated herself to understanding the specifics of biological attractions, as well as how they contribute to a person’s understanding of their self and, by extension, their compatibility. The question she explores revolves around personality traits — which parts of a person come from the environment and what is genetic? And how do those traits impact the world of dating?
Fisher’s work led her to create a personality test, which separates people into four types of identities: Explorer, Director, Negotiator, and Builder.
The Four Types
While many personality tests lump people into one group or another, Fisher’s approach is different. She posits that everyone has all types within their personality set —, the test simply figures out the primary and secondary attributes of all four.
What makes the groups different? From a purely chemical perspective, Fisher explains that Explorers have higher levels of dopamine, Directors have high levels of testosterone, Negotiators have higher levels of estrogen, and Builders have higher levels of serotonin.
I was surprised at how much I resonated with my groupings and how much detail Fisher provided for each. For a more in-depth look, you can check out her 2009 book, “Why Him? Why Her?: How to Find and Keep Lasting Love.” But for a brief look at highlights from the text, keep reading.
Do People Like Their Type?
Online tests aren’t without their flaws, and some people worry that test-takers might choose what sounds “best” when answering the questions from the online test. However, Fisher alleges that people tend to really like their primary personality traits, leading them to answer honestly.
For example, when it comes to jobs, those who explore a life based on their passions seem to be proud of that lifestyle — and those people are more likely to be Negotiators and Explorers. They may commonly say things like, “I don’t want to be at a desk,” and enjoy the freedom of creating their own path. Others love the comfort and stability of upholding traditional roles, a typical response for a Builder.
From a social standpoint, a Director may really like that they use their voice to push forward their opinions, even if it bothers others. A Negotiator, on the other hand, may enjoy their tendencies to be the “social glue” and create an environment of dialogue and openness.
It’s important to note that no group is more valuable than another. From a sociological perspective, these four types are crucial for the collective survival of a community:
“Explorers roamed far into the dangerous grass, returning with meat, nuts, or information,” Fisher notes, while “Builders guarded the group and gradually built the rituals of tribal life… Directors were better at spears and traps and calculated the coming of the rains and waning of the moon... Negotiators held the group together with their social skills.”
Compatibility of Partners
The next question is - which groupings are the most compatible for each other? Socially, we often hear contradictory statements such as:
“Two birds of a feather flock together”
So what is the truth? The answer is, it depends, and personality styles help to explain why. As Fisher notes, it is very common for Builders and Builders, and Explorers and Explorers to end up together, while Negotiators and Directors often gravitate towards one another.
Reasons for attraction can be dependent on what each type is looking for in life: Builders, for example, value tradition and family, so it would make sense that they would settle down with other Builders. Explorers have a zest for a life that is atypical to that of a Builder, leading them more likely to be with Explorers or even Negotiators. Directors and Negotiators often complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
While the breakdown is by no means set in stone, it is one of a few theories that may account for the contradictory statements of compatibility.
A Note On Sex Drive
As Fisher notes, sexual compatibility and relationships are often driven by a person’s given personality type, as hormonal levels can affect preferences:
For Explorers, sex can be seen as a source of fun, novelty, or entertainment. Fisher has found that this group is more likely to engage in casual sex than other personality groups, as higher levels of dopamine are correlated with sex drive.
For Builders, an elevated serotonin level can actually inhibit desire, especially before a relationship is formed. Fisher posits that this group typically has the lowest number of sexual partners, as they may see sex as a form of relaxation instead of a source of excitement.
For Directors, it can be common to experience higher levels of testosterone, the hormone that elevates sex drive. And rather than scratching an itch, engaging in sex can actually cause a director’s desire to increase, as sexual activity triggers the release of testosterone. This creates a feedback loop of “wanting sex, having sex, and wanting more sex.” Fisher also notes that researchers have discovered that women with elevated levels of testosterone have more sexual fantasies than their peers.
For Negotiators, it is typical for a relationship/partnership to be a key aspect of a person’s sex life. Sex often goes hand-in-hand with “romance, communication, and emotional intimacy,” leading Negotiators farther away from casual sex than other groups.
Of course, no online test can give you a true reading of your hormones. If you feel like something is off-balance, talk to your doctor.
When it comes to linking up with a potential partner, people showcase their personality types in ways that their brains unconsciously pick up on. There are plenty of ways to flirt, connect, and bond, including facial expressions and choice of words.
Facial expressions, or lack thereof, can be a clue to someone’s personality type. For example, Explorers gravitate towards those with bigger expressions and a sense of active energy (a sign of increased dopamine). Builders are often intrigued by a more stoic look, which may correlate to higher levels of serotonin. And while Directors often have more defined features, they prefer signs of estrogen in the face, such as rounder cheeks or delicate eyebrows — making them perfect foils for Negotiators.
A person’s genetic disposition also affects which words they utilize the most. Fisher conducted a large study and found the top ten favorite words or phrases for each group:
Explorer: Adventure, new energy, fun, traveling, venture, outgoing, spontaneity/spontaneous, passion, and active.
Builder: Family, honesty, caring, moral/morals, loyal, respect, trust, values, loving, and trustworthy.
Negotiator: Passion, read/reading, kind, real, heart, sensitive, learn/learning, random, sweet, and empathetic/empathy.
Director: Intelligence, intellectual, debate, geek, nerd/nerdy, ambitious, driven, politics, challenge/challenging, and real.
This post just scratches the surface of each type, and of the thinking behind each categorization. It’s also worth remembering that genetics can’t explain everything, as longitudinal research projects that focus on twins who are separated at birth, develop in completely separate environments, and are later tested for differences and similarities in their personality can attest. These researchers are continuing to unravel which parts of people’s personalities are affected by genes verses one’s environment.