Sex & The Brain: Chemically-Induced Personalities

Yet another lesson in the wonders of the sexiest organ of all, the brain.

In the previous article, I introduced some of our main pleasure chemicals. In this one we’ll be focusing on the more familiar estrogen and testosterone, with a more in-depth look at the previously mentioned dopamine, and the well-known serotonin.

Testosterone and Estrogen are the two celebrity hormones we always hear about, but are they the most important? Do they play us like puppets? They have divided and defined our societal norms throughout history, but what do these two hormones really do? How do they actually affect us? Our sexuality, ability to parent, to f*ck, to love? To surrender, to be kind, or build muscle?

Can they define our personalities and shape our very identities?  

You’ve come to the right place to try and figure it out, though. We’re sifting through the scientific research, translating it with a touch of sexy humor and letting you decide what you make of it all. So, let’s begin.

Helen Fisher

Helen Fisher is a bad-ass bitch with a PhD who was hired by match.com to chemically combine people online, to fall in love. They hired her because she studies brains. Brains in love.

Image via Poptech

She’s studied 14 million brains – those newly in love, those recently rejected, and those who’ve been in love for the long term, to try and understand what love is neuro- and biologically. Her findings are pretty cool, and we’ve done our best to  translate what she’s found as simply as possible from brain language to something more comprehensive.

Chemically-Dominated Personalities

She divided the brain into four chemically-dominated personality types. The two most known – testosterone and estrogen– were, for the most part, gender dominant (men in testosterone, women in estrogen). Two were non-gender dominant: serotonin and dopamine. The dominant chemical in each brain determines personality traits that, for most of us, impact interpersonal compatibility. (Find out which one you are with her personality test)!

That being said, gender (although culturally biased/constructed) does not actually command which one of these four is more dominant in the body.

For example, a study in the Philippines found that men had their testosterone plummet once they became a father. Testosterone tended to drop even more if they spent three or more hours with their children a day – nurturing and raising them. It is believed that this is nature’s adaptation to making a more conducive, internal environment for fatherhood. This study suggests that biology will adapt hormone levels to what’s needed in someone’s specific environment.

4 Types Explained

Dr. Fisher has done extensive research as to how each personality type is defined biologically, and what that means in terms of how we choose who we love, or who we are attracted to most. Below are the characteristics that correlate with each chemically-dominated personality type:

Dopamine (Explorers): These people are curious, energetic, and brainy. They like novelty, are mentally explorative, and have a tactical intelligence. They tend to be enthusiastic, optimistic, and independent, while also being impulsive and spontaneously generous. Their creativity sparks from verbal and numeric skills, as they are also most likely to have a college education.

Serotonin (Builders): Those who are dominated by serotonin are usually more cautious, enjoying the conventional and familiar. They are also calmer than the dopamine dominant, in control of themselves, and are more detail/fact oriented – thriving off of concrete and literal thinking. This makes their creativity stem from figural and numeric skills, coupled with logistical intelligence. 

Testosterone (Directors): People driven by testosterone tend to be very analytical, theoretical, and independent. While they are also decisive, forgiving, and goal-oriented, they can be also be demanding, impatient, and have poor verbal skills. This is because they are also usually more emotionally detached and not that introspective.

Estrogen (Negotiators): These people are also theoretical and independent, but are more idealistic than those driven by testosterone. They’re not super decisive and are less forgiving, but have better overall verbal skills. This is because they are more empathetic and introspective, expressing themselves more through emotions and intuition.

Who Attracts Who?

Though there is research to credit and discredit the idea that opposites attract, Fisher found that compatibility was perceived as harder or more difficult depending on the chemistry of the individuals. Estrogen and testosterone dominant personalities attracted each other, balancing out in their polarities. On the other hand, serotonin dominant personalities enjoy others like themselves, as do dopamine dominant individuals.

It’s not that these personalities can’t work well together – at the end of the day, compatibility has so much more to do with you choosing to be committed to your partner (and your willingness to be uncomfortable at times), than your chemistry. After all, imagine if we never had sex again because it felt uncomfortable the first time. We do hope, though, it helps shed some light on your desires or on why you dated that carnie for awhile.

Oh, is that just me? Fine.

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