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Take the Quiz: What's Your Personality Temperament?
There are four main traits of temperament and two subsets of each. Which are you?
What is a personality? It’s something everyone knows but when we’re held on the point, we find difficult to define. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “Personality refers to individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving.” With the Nature vs. Nurture debate, each side has weighed in now and then on how personality is formed. Which is more important has been debated for centuries. 17th philosopher John Locke was convinced that the human mind was a “Tabula rasa” or blank slate at birth, a concept first introduced by Aristotle. It was experience that formed personality, they argued.
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.” She’s a senior research fellow at The Kinsey Institute, chief science adviser for Match.com, and a research professor at Rutgers University.
Dr. Fisher spent four years digging through the medical literature and examining anything associated with personality. This included studies on genetics, hormones, pharmaceuticals, sexual reassignment surgery, brain architecture, and neurotransmitters. Soon she recognized a pattern. Dr. Fisher found that there was a “host of personality traits linked with four brain systems. The dopamine, testosterone, estrogen/oxytocin, and serotonin systems.”
With the help of a statistician, she took the data and developed a personality questionnaire. She told me in a recent phone interview that, “It’s the first questionnaire in the world that started from the knowledge of neural circuitry and then proven with brain-scanning studies.” It’s also the first to link brain activity to what she calls traits of temperament.
Dr. Helen Fisher. Anatomy of Love.
The four traits of temperament are Explorers, Builders, Directors, and Negotiators. Note that any of these can pertain to a man or a woman. Each temperament has its own traits and is driven by a particular neurotransmitter or hormone.
Explorers are curious and energetic. They’re driven by dopamine—the pleasure neurotransmitter. It gives us a sense of elation, accomplishment, and reward. Pretty much anything that gives us pleasure from food to alcohol to sex gooses dopamine production. Explorers are thrill seekers who are open-minded, creative, and cerebral. They crave adventure and novelty, and are easily bored. They may be impulsive and lack introspection however, as they are forever outward looking.
Builders are cautious. They’re driven by serotonin which gives us a sense of relaxation, belonging, and comfort. They’re sociable, follow the rules, and are respectful. These folks are meticulous, orderly, methodical, good with numbers, and may be religious. They are creatures of habit and practice self-control. Dr. Fisher calls this type “cautious/social norm compliant.”
Directors are driven by the testosterone system. They are honest, confident, assertive, and analytical. As a result of receiving fetal testosterone, they have a tendency to understand math, music, computers or any “rule-based systems.” They also have higher visual-spatial perception, which may make them good at sports. These are detail-oriented. Directors become experts in a certain field, but may not have too many interests beyond that. They may lack empathy or sensitivity, be less verbally astute, less understanding of others emotions, and give less eye contact. They also may prone to being flooded by their emotions, making them prone to outbursts, particularly of anger.
Negotiators received a hearty helping of prenatal estrogen. Estrogen is closely related to oxytocin, the “calm and cuddle” hormone. This type is trusting, generous, imaginative, social, and open-minded. They’re also very nurturing and empathetic. Negotiators have excellent verbal skills. Dr. Fisher calls them, “prosocial/empathetic.”
Explorers are the creative types, mostly expressing dopamine. Getty Images.
14 million Americans have taken the questionnaire via Match.com and Chemistry.com, along with several other thousand people from over 40 countries. To take the quiz yourself, click here. She and a colleague placed subjects in a brain scanner after taking the questionnaire. Say the subject self-identified as a risk-taker who is curious and energetic.
“Sure enough, we put them in the brain scanner, and that whole brain pathway for the dopamine system became very active.” She and her colleague also saw more activity in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), the tiny region at the base of the brain where dopamine is produced. They had similar findings with serotonin. Those who were testosterone driven showed more activity under an FMRI in areas of the brain developed in the womb by fetal testosterone. They saw the same pattern among the estrogen-driven.
Her new research looks into what degree each of these brain systems is expressed in different people. “We’re not all dopamine. We’re not all serotonin,” Dr. Fisher said. “We’re not all a negotiator. We are a combination of all of them. But we express some more than others. And that’s what creates our basic personality.” Another advantage to her questionnaire, besides it being tied to hard science, is the fact that it doesn’t cubbyhole people. Rather, it shows what level of each system they express.
Now, she and a colleague have created a second generation questionnaire called the NeuroColor Temperament Inventory. It’s part of a company she’s started called NeuroColor. It’s based on her first generation work. But this incarnation is “designed to be used in the business community.” She said, “Each of these four broad styles of thinking and behaving…breaks down into two subsystems.”
Two subsets of personality traits can make those who are alike different in other ways. Getty Images.
Subsets of Personality. “A lot of people are both. But not everybody.”
Testosterone System subsets (Directors): Systems-thinking, and tough-minded and direct. Some who express testosterone for instance are system’s thinkers. They’re engineers, mathematicians, or scientists, but they aren’t so tough-minded. Women who are testosterone driven tend to be this way, according to Dr. Fisher.
Estrogen System subsets (Negotiators): Empathetic and inclusive, and contemplative and contextual. “I have found quite a few men who are empathetic and inclusive, but are not contemplative and contextual. What I mean, I'm estrogen-driven. I ruminate. I think over and over. I’ll think about the context. ‘He meant this because of this.’” Men however who are she tends to find, miss the context and don't often contemplate.
Serotonin System subsets (Builders): Prudent and principled, and concrete and methodical. “These people aren’t incredibly interested in theory. They want the facts. They want the details. They want to go step-by-step. They want to be careful. They are not risk-takers.”
Dopamine System subsets (Explorers): Curious and energetic, and inventive and future-oriented. “I know very many people who are very curious and energetic, but they’re not inventive. They’ll read novel after book, they want to go to the opera or the symphony, and they want to travel all over the world. They read poetry but don’t write it.”
Estrogen expressing men tend to be empathetic and inclusive. Getty Images.
Dr. Fisher said, “There’s people like Steve Jobs. I think he was very tough-minded, but I’m not sure he was a systems thinker. He was designing things. But he wasn’t down in the basement writing code. Einstein I think was both tough-minded and direct. So it begins to break down into substyles. And we’re getting much more granular.”
As for future plans, she’ll keep digging and developing a more sophisticated understanding of our temperament. “The future lies in going directly to the genetics, again. We’ve got 63 genes that we want to study.” Though we know some genes related to personality traits, she wants to know the whole combination and how they interact. “We’ll eventually be able to really map personality,” she said.
To take the 1st generation questionnaire yourself, click here.
To learn more about where behavior emanates from in the brain, click here:
"You dream about these kinds of moments when you're a kid," said lead paleontologist David Schmidt.
- The triceratops skull was first discovered in 2019, but was excavated over the summer of 2020.
- It was discovered in the South Dakota Badlands, an area where the Triceratops roamed some 66 million years ago.
- Studying dinosaurs helps scientists better understand the evolution of all life on Earth.
David Schmidt, a geology professor at Westminster College, had just arrived in the South Dakota Badlands in summer 2019 with a group of students for a fossil dig when he received a call from the National Forest Service. A nearby rancher had discovered a strange object poking out of the ground. They wanted Schmidt to take a look.
"One of the very first bones that we saw in the rock was this long cylindrical bone," Schmidt told St. Louis Public Radio. "The first thing that came out of our mouths was, 'That kind of looks like the horn of a triceratops.'"
After authorities gave the go-ahead, Schmidt and a small group of students returned this summer and spent nearly every day of June and July excavating the skull.
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College
"We had to be really careful," Schmidt told St. Louis Public Radio. "We couldn't disturb anything at all, because at that point, it was under law enforcement investigation. They were telling us, 'Don't even make footprints,' and I was thinking, 'How are we supposed to do that?'"
Another difficulty was the mammoth size of the skull: about 7 feet long and more than 3,000 pounds. (For context, the largest triceratops skull ever unearthed was about 8.2 feet long.) The skull of Schmidt's dinosaur was likely a Triceratops prorsus, one of two species of triceratops that roamed what's now North America about 66 million years ago.
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College
The triceratops was an herbivore, but it was also a favorite meal of the Tyrannosaurus rex. That probably explains why the Dakotas contain many scattered triceratops bone fragments, and, less commonly, complete bones and skulls. In summer 2019, for example, a separate team on a dig in North Dakota made headlines after unearthing a complete triceratops skull that measured five feet in length.
Michael Kjelland, a biology professor who participated in that excavation, said digging up the dinosaur was like completing a "multi-piece, 3-D jigsaw puzzle" that required "engineering that rivaled SpaceX," he jokingly told the New York Times.
Morrison Formation in Colorado
James St. John via Flickr
The Badlands aren't the only spot in North America where paleontologists have found dinosaurs. In the 1870s, Colorado and Wyoming became the first sites of dinosaur discoveries in the U.S., ushering in an era of public fascination with the prehistoric creatures — and a competitive rush to unearth them.
Since, dinosaur bones have been found in 35 states. One of the most fruitful locations for paleontologists has been the Morrison formation, a sequence of Upper Jurassic sedimentary rock that stretches under the Western part of the country. Discovered here were species like Camarasaurus, Diplodocus, Apatosaurus, Stegosaurus, and Allosaurus, to name a few.
|Credit: Nobu Tamura/Wikimedia Commons|
As for "Shady" (the nickname of the South Dakota triceratops), Schmidt and his team have safely transported it to the Westminster campus. They hope to raise funds for restoration, and to return to South Dakota in search of more bones that once belonged to the triceratops.
Studying dinosaurs helps scientists gain a more complete understanding of our evolution, illuminating a through-line that extends from "deep time" to present day. For scientists like Schmidt, there's also the simple joy of coming to face-to-face with a lost world.
"You dream about these kinds of moments when you're a kid," Schmidt told St. Louis Public Radio. "You don't ever think that these things will ever happen."
Are "humanized" pigs the future of medical research?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires all new medicines to be tested in animals before use in people. Pigs make better medical research subjects than mice, because they are closer to humans in size, physiology and genetic makeup.
In recent years, our team at Iowa State University has found a way to make pigs an even closer stand-in for humans. We have successfully transferred components of the human immune system into pigs that lack a functional immune system. This breakthrough has the potential to accelerate medical research in many areas, including virus and vaccine research, as well as cancer and stem cell therapeutics.
Existing biomedical models
Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, or SCID, is a genetic condition that causes impaired development of the immune system. People can develop SCID, as dramatized in the 1976 movie “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble." Other animals can develop SCID, too, including mice.
Researchers in the 1980s recognized that SCID mice could be implanted with human immune cells for further study. Such mice are called “humanized" mice and have been optimized over the past 30 years to study many questions relevant to human health.
Mice are the most commonly used animal in biomedical research, but results from mice often do not translate well to human responses, thanks to differences in metabolism, size and divergent cell functions compared with people.
Nonhuman primates are also used for medical research and are certainly closer stand-ins for humans. But using them for this purpose raises numerous ethical considerations. With these concerns in mind, the National Institutes of Health retired most of its chimpanzees from biomedical research in 2013.
Alternative animal models are in demand.
Swine are a viable option for medical research because of their similarities to humans. And with their widespread commercial use, pigs are met with fewer ethical dilemmas than primates. Upwards of 100 million hogs are slaughtered each year for food in the U.S.
In 2012, groups at Iowa State University and Kansas State University, including Jack Dekkers, an expert in animal breeding and genetics, and Raymond Rowland, a specialist in animal diseases, serendipitously discovered a naturally occurring genetic mutation in pigs that caused SCID. We wondered if we could develop these pigs to create a new biomedical model.
Our group has worked for nearly a decade developing and optimizing SCID pigs for applications in biomedical research. In 2018, we achieved a twofold milestone when working with animal physiologist Jason Ross and his lab. Together we developed a more immunocompromised pig than the original SCID pig – and successfully humanized it, by transferring cultured human immune stem cells into the livers of developing piglets.
During early fetal development, immune cells develop within the liver, providing an opportunity to introduce human cells. We inject human immune stem cells into fetal pig livers using ultrasound imaging as a guide. As the pig fetus develops, the injected human immune stem cells begin to differentiate – or change into other kinds of cells – and spread through the pig's body. Once SCID piglets are born, we can detect human immune cells in their blood, liver, spleen and thymus gland. This humanization is what makes them so valuable for testing new medical treatments.
We have found that human ovarian tumors survive and grow in SCID pigs, giving us an opportunity to study ovarian cancer in a new way. Similarly, because human skin survives on SCID pigs, scientists may be able to develop new treatments for skin burns. Other research possibilities are numerous.
The ultraclean SCID pig biocontainment facility in Ames, Iowa. Adeline Boettcher, CC BY-SA
Pigs in a bubble
Since our pigs lack essential components of their immune system, they are extremely susceptible to infection and require special housing to help reduce exposure to pathogens.
SCID pigs are raised in bubble biocontainment facilities. Positive pressure rooms, which maintain a higher air pressure than the surrounding environment to keep pathogens out, are coupled with highly filtered air and water. All personnel are required to wear full personal protective equipment. We typically have anywhere from two to 15 SCID pigs and breeding animals at a given time. (Our breeding animals do not have SCID, but they are genetic carriers of the mutation, so their offspring may have SCID.)
As with any animal research, ethical considerations are always front and center. All our protocols are approved by Iowa State University's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee and are in accordance with The National Institutes of Health's Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals.
Every day, twice a day, our pigs are checked by expert caretakers who monitor their health status and provide engagement. We have veterinarians on call. If any pigs fall ill, and drug or antibiotic intervention does not improve their condition, the animals are humanely euthanized.
Our goal is to continue optimizing our humanized SCID pigs so they can be more readily available for stem cell therapy testing, as well as research in other areas, including cancer. We hope the development of the SCID pig model will pave the way for advancements in therapeutic testing, with the long-term goal of improving human patient outcomes.
Adeline Boettcher earned her research-based Ph.D. working on the SCID project in 2019.
Satellite imagery can help better predict volcanic eruptions by monitoring changes in surface temperature near volcanoes.
- A recent study used data collected by NASA satellites to conduct a statistical analysis of surface temperatures near volcanoes that erupted from 2002 to 2019.
- The results showed that surface temperatures near volcanoes gradually increased in the months and years prior to eruptions.
- The method was able to detect potential eruptions that were not anticipated by other volcano monitoring methods, such as eruptions in Japan in 2014 and Chile in 2015.
How can modern technology help warn us of impending volcanic eruptions?
One promising answer may lie in satellite imagery. In a recent study published in Nature Geoscience, researchers used infrared data collected by NASA satellites to study the conditions near volcanoes in the months and years before they erupted.
The results revealed a pattern: Prior to eruptions, an unusually large amount of heat had been escaping through soil near volcanoes. This diffusion of subterranean heat — which is a byproduct of "large-scale thermal unrest" — could potentially represent a warning sign of future eruptions.
Conceptual model of large-scale thermal unrestCredit: Girona et al.
For the study, the researchers conducted a statistical analysis of changes in surface temperature near volcanoes, using data collected over 16.5 years by NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites. The results showed that eruptions tended to occur around the time when surface temperatures near the volcanoes peaked.
Eruptions were preceded by "subtle but significant long-term (years), large-scale (tens of square kilometres) increases in their radiant heat flux (up to ~1 °C in median radiant temperature)," the researchers wrote. After eruptions, surface temperatures reliably decreased, though the cool-down period took longer for bigger eruptions.
"Volcanoes can experience thermal unrest for several years before eruption," the researchers wrote. "This thermal unrest is dominated by a large-scale phenomenon operating over extensive areas of volcanic edifices, can be an early indicator of volcanic reactivation, can increase prior to different types of eruption and can be tracked through a statistical analysis of little-processed (that is, radiance or radiant temperature) satellite-based remote sensing data with high temporal resolution."
Temporal variations of target volcanoesCredit: Girona et al.
Although using satellites to monitor thermal unrest wouldn't enable scientists to make hyper-specific eruption predictions (like predicting the exact day), it could significantly improve prediction efforts. Seismologists and volcanologists currently use a range of techniques to forecast eruptions, including monitoring for gas emissions, ground deformation, and changes to nearby water channels, to name a few.
Still, none of these techniques have proven completely reliable, both because of the science and the practical barriers (e.g. funding) standing in the way of large-scale monitoring. In 2014, for example, Japan's Mount Ontake suddenly erupted, killing 63 people. It was the nation's deadliest eruption in nearly a century.
In the study, the researchers found that surface temperatures near Mount Ontake had been increasing in the two years prior to the eruption. To date, no other monitoring method has detected "well-defined" warning signs for the 2014 disaster, the researchers noted.
The researchers hope satellite-based infrared monitoring techniques, combined with existing methods, can improve prediction efforts for volcanic eruptions. Volcanic eruptions have killed about 2,000 people since 2000.
"Our findings can open new horizons to better constrain magma–hydrothermal interaction processes, especially when integrated with other datasets, allowing us to explore the thermal budget of volcanoes and anticipate eruptions that are very difficult to forecast through other geophysical/geochemical methods."