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Dr. Helen Fisher on How Brain Chemistry Determines Personality and Politics

Is the libertarian mind a product of elevated dopamine and testosterone?

If libertarians are bold, impulsive, quick witted, adventurous, analytical, and willing to ignore social norms, is that because we have especially active dopamine and testosterone systems in our brains?

That's the hypothesis of the biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, who has developed a pioneering framework for classifying human temperaments. She categorizes her subjects by having them take a personality test that's used by online dating sites Match.com and Chemistry.com to better link potential mates. To date, her questionnaire has been taken by more than 14 million people in 30 countries.

Barack Obama, according to Fisher, is high in dopamine, accounting for his optimism, and also in estrogen, which explains the Oval Office rug covered in inspirational quotes. Mitt Romney is in some ways the opposite of a libertarian, high on the serotonin scale, which accounts for his respect for authority, rigidity, and loyalty.

Fisher is a senior fellow at the Kinsey Institute and she's the author of six books, most recently Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage and Why We Stray. She spoke at the Reason Foundation's annual donor weekend in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Edited by Ian Keyser. Intro by Todd Krainin. Cameras by Meredith Bragg and Jim Epstein.

"Sphunx" by Sk'p is licensed under CC BY NC ND 3.0

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This is a rush transcript—check all quotes against the audio for accuracy.

Helen Fisher: Anyway, I study the brain. I and my colleagues have put over 100 people into a brain scanner and studied the brain circuitry of romantic love, people who have just fallen happily in love, people who've been rejected in love, and people who are in love long-term. It's possible to be in love, not just loving, but in love long-term but you got to pick the right person. In 2005, a couple of days before Christmas, my phone rang in New York and it was Match.com. They called me and they said they wanted to meet with me two days after Christmas to talk. Nothing happens in New York City at Christmas-time so I was astonished and I walked into the room with them and 11 people piled into the room and I had no idea who they were. I thought maybe this was a think tank and there were other academics, I didn't know.

Anyway, in the middle of the morning somebody, it ended up being the CEO, turned to me and he said, "Why do you fall in love with one person rather than another?" I said, "I don't know. With all kinds of cultural reasons that you do," but I began to think people will say we have chemistry or we don't have chemistry. Could it be that nature has evolved some natural personality styles that are drawn to one another? I began to think to myself that I would look into the biology of personality and see if I could understand the human mind.

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  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    Is the libertarian mind a product of elevated dopamine and testosterone?

    It would certainly explain the dearth of male dopes.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    We'll always have Tony.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

  • Elias Fakaname||

    We could always vivisect Tony to see what's wrong with his brain.

  • JFree||

    You get paid that much to vivisect Tony's brain?

  • Finrod||

    It does require jeweler's tools and a microscope, after all.

  • Tom Bombadil||

    "If libertarians are bold, impulsive, quick witted, adventurous, analytical, and willing to ignore social norms, is that because we have especially active dopamine and testosterone systems in our brains?"

    No. Next question.

  • Old Mexican - Mostly Harmless||

    "Care to elaborate?"
    "No, and get off my lawn!"

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    If libertarians are bold, impulsive, quick witted, adventurous, analytical, and willing to ignore social norms, is that because we have especially active dopamine and testosterone systems in our brains?

    That is one HUGE 'if'.

  • Mike Laursen||

    So, we libertarians are drained of our melancholy humours.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Following this up .... docs should start asking political questions so they can track your changes, just as they ask if you've changed your medications, your exercise regime, eating habits, etc.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    A lot of the major healthcare networks already ask if you own guns. This is the next obvious step.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Barack Obama, according to Fisher, is high in dopamine, accounting for his optimism, and also in estrogen, which explains the mom jeansOval Office rug covered in inspirational quotes.

  • Tom Bombadil||

    Obama never struck me as optimistic. In fact, he was Debby Downer: "You didn't build that", etc. He was a robot who uttered platitudes to get elected.

  • Mickey Rat||

    Obama always struck me as a dour scold. Trump is an optimist, to the point of pollyannaism.

  • Don't look at me.||

    And perhaps polyamory.

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    Really? Obama's campaign slogan was "Hope," and he wrote a book called The Audacity of Hope, but he was a "dour scold"?

  • Mickey Rat||

    His sloganeering and the impression observing his persona had are not the same thing.

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    I wasn't old enough to vote for him, but I remember finding him quite inspirational. How can anybody watch this clip and not be hopeful for the future of the planet?

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    I think It's gonna be hilarious when OBL starts to really believe in his troll persona.

  • ||

    How can anybody watch this clip and not be hopeful for the future of the planet?

    You've gotta wear the glasses.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Sounds like you are projecting.

  • Bubba Jones||

    He didn't write that.

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    Who did, then? Bill Ayers? That's such a weak conspiracy theory.

  • Just Say'n||

    At this point, you're either a parody or Will Wilkinson

  • Citizen X - #6||

    But you repeat yourself.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    It really isn't. Obama hung out with lots of treasonous subversives. The media did a good job of covering for him. Obama should be executed for treason, based on his many crimes against America

  • Shirley Knott||

    Yup. He 'hoped' other people would behave as he wanted them to, but was prepared to force them into 'compliance'.
    Utterly selfish, in O. Wilde's sense of the term, not A. Rand's.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Whatever scientific merit her research has will be washed away by folks using the ideas to invent new ways to insult others.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    Well, yeah.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Shaddup, you estrogen-Xer.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Hey, at least I'm human.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Not me. I identify as a hybrid kryptonian gallifreyan. So the government owes me a TARDIS and yellow,sun fueled superhuman powers.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Okay, but the relevant part is do you have a baculum? Humans don't.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    So it all comes down to hormones. If you are high on testosterone you're pretty much an overbearing asshole, and too much estrogen you're a bitch. Maybe even a slutty bitch. Did I get that right?

  • Mickey Rat||

    So if it is all set by hormones then persuasion and reason are useless because no one arrived at their beliefs by rational thought and consideration.

  • Don't look at me.||

    You didn't think that.

  • Bubba Jones||

    There are many books on that topic.

  • Shirley Knott||

    Which nicely rebuts any argument she makes from the premises of this reductionist bs.

  • Robert||

    But what about her data? You'll take a priori reasoning over observ'n?

  • EscherEnigma||

    Influenced by, not set by.

    Similar to how the best predictor for someone's religion (as an adult) is the religion of their parents. Doesn't work every time, but it's one of the big influences.

  • Zeb||

    I don't think that's a good conclusion to draw. But it does help explain why reason and persuasion are so rarely successful at changing people's political beliefs.

  • JFree||

    That horse left the barn 100 years ago. Say when Edward Bernays joined the Creel Committee during WW1. And realized that his uncle's (Sigmund Freud) ideas were not just applicable to neurotics lying on a couch. But were applicable to every form of public mass communication from advertising to PR to politics.

    Add a whole bunch of knowledge since then about how the brain itself works - and yeah. The notion that 'man is rational' is purely one of the two remaining conceits/delusions of the Enlightenment Era. The only ones who still believe that are themselves purely deluded about their own rationality. And any academic discipline - like say economics with homo economicus - that assumes rationality is just wrong and will fail to the extent that it requires that assumption.

  • JFree||

    Oh - and libertarians would be well advised to understand that reality pronto. Because that reality IS understood by those who are more than happy to use that knowledge and their control of the institutional forms of communication to sell very anti-libertarian ideas. And that's why they are winning.

  • John||

    People are perfectly rational. They just look irrational to you because they are reasoning from different assumptions. To say they are "irrational" is to assume you know their values and perceptions, which you can't. Or it is to assume that rationality is objective, it is not. Logic is objective.

  • ThomasD||

    If by 'perfectly rational' you mean 'as rational as they can be given the limits of their often faulty knowledge and limited perceptions' then yes.

  • JFree||

    No people are not rational. IDEAS are rational. People are animals. And like all other animals, we respond to - and act because of - a combo of stimuli, prexisting neural connections in very different parts of the brain, a soup of chemicals - and yes new neural connections created by exposure to a new 'rational' idea.

    The notion that people are rational is actually quite reductionist. We are FAR MORE than that.

  • BYODB||


    No people are not rational. IDEAS are rational. People are animals.

    It would appear this is true of you, at the very least, since your claim here amounts to the notion that idea's exist separately from human minds. Are you trying to prove your own point by personal example?

  • JFree||

    Are you trying to prove your own point by personal example?

    Are you trying to pretend that the entirety of metaphysics in philosophy doesn't even exist? That it is so self-evident that there was never any eg problem of universals.

    Must be fun to be so arrogant. But I can guarantee you that the source of that arrogance is probably some chemical in your brain (maybe serotonin from this article) or some prexisting neural connection of yours - NOT some rational idea that you could point me too.

  • BYODB||

    Just pointing out that if idea's are rational, that one could claim that the person that had the idea was also rational. Idea's do not exist somewhere outside the human consciousness. I guess that if you believe in a god, maybe that would make sense.

    It's not arrogance, it's rational.

  • JFree||

    if idea's are rational, that one could claim that the person that had the idea was also rational.

    They presumably had a rational THOUGHT. That's all. Maybe just a brain fart. Maybe something that becomes quite meaningful to them and changes their own behavior via neural connections. But it is hardly 'reasonable' to then reduce all of the rest of them to that one thought. Once it is expressed/communicated; then it does also exist outside them. But there is then also no neurological 'reason' why a subsequent person encountering that thought will form the same neural connections re that thought.

    So either the label 'rational' is meaningless - or it applies only to the thing outside both of us.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    John, what of the progtard, and it's innate cognitive dissonance? Clearly, they are not rational creatures. In fact, an argument can made that they are not truly human.

  • JFree||

    Good short bio re Edward Bernays.

    This connection of psychology, neurology/biology, and mass communication is at the heart of a lot of stuff today. Cambridge Analytica collected psychographic info from Facebook. Psychographics is nothing more than Maslow's hierarchy of needs made actionable and self-correcting. Which means everyone on Facebook is implicitly consenting to be irrationally manipulated and ain't nothing 'rational' they can do about it.

  • The Metonymy||

    Garbage in, garbage out.

  • Robert||

    The question being addressed is, regardless of what persuasion & reason can achieve, why do some people use them a lot more than other people do? If rational thought & consider'n were the sole ways people arrive at their beliefs, & the facts we have to reason about are the same, why do people have different beliefs? You'd expect everyone to arrive at the same conclusions from the same facts, yet they don't, so something else is going on.

  • wef||

    Next thing you know Reason will be talking up the wonders of evolutionary psychology.

  • ThomasD||

    Their inner neo-Darwinist will not be denied!

  • DJF||

    So Libertopia will never exist since their won't be enough people with the correct brain chemistry to conduct a Libertopia in any one area?

    Unless they have mandatory drugs that get everyone to have the correct brain chemistry, like Fluoride in the water system or maybe contrails in the air?

  • ThomasD||

    New and improved Soma.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Or Equilibrium.

  • Zeb||

    So Libertopia will never exist since their won't be enough people with the correct brain chemistry to conduct a Libertopia in any one area?

    Seems pretty likely to be the case. For the same reasons why no political ideology ever really gets its way.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "So Libertopia will never exist since their won't be enough people with the correct brain chemistry to conduct a Libertopia in any one area?"

    Probably

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Well it's certainly true in my case. I'm High T baby.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    I'm High T baby.

    A fellow member of the hairy ass, big bag club?

  • TuIpa||

    Sorry about your hair and gut.

  • Brian||

    I will happily cede the thinking of estrogen to someone else.

  • Lawn Darts||

    I haven't watched this yet, but I think this is the same researcher who found that leftists and rightists tend to smell different, and sort themselves accordingly. Pheromones, you know...

  • Citizen X - #6||

    "Biology is destiny" sure is a libertarian thing to believe.

  • John||

    It is all the transhumanist nonsense. You see we have free will except when we don't. It is complete rubbish. Either biology controls us or it doesn't. If it does, then it does so in every case and there is no such thing as free will. If it doesn't in every case or we can somehow ignore it, then it doesn't matter. It is one or the other. But these people refuse to accept that. So they dream up what amounts to fantasies about how biology sort a kinda explains our behavior.

    What biology explains is our desires. You can't control what appeals to you. What you can control, however, is whether you act on those desires. And biology has nothing to do with that.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Agreed, except that transhumanism is ultimately about taking control of one's biology regardless of whether or not biology is in full control of behavior.

  • John||

    Yes. But to take control of ones biology is to assume that biology encompasses all of the self. If it does not, then overcoming and controlling my biology doesn't really transcend anything.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Not necessarily. It's about transcending physical (and maybe mental) limitations, which do exist, even if they don't define what makes you John and me Citizen X. For instance, one of the major goals of transhumanists is figuring out ways to extend life. That is taking control of biology, but has fuck all to do with determining the selfhood of people who might undergo it.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Of course biology encompasses all of self. What else would there be? Some kind of immortal soul that is separable from the body? Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. You have none.

  • The Last American Hero||

    Are you currently drinking a bottle of rum in a Mexican whore house? No?

    If there is no soul, then there is no point to not just going full on hedonist.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    That doesn't follow at all.

  • BYODB||

    You can't prove or disprove the existence of a soul, but demonstrably humanity is different from animals because of something that we refer to as a soul. A humanist or atheist might refer to it as 'thinking' or some other less loaded term, but observably we are above the animal and both atheists and theists generally agree on that point.

  • EscherEnigma||

    If there is no soul, then there is no point to not just going full on hedonist.
    That you think so says more about you then it does about atheists.

  • ThomasD||

    What it says is that, if true, there is no valid basis for your own judgement that (at least some) atheists are 'better' than what he thinks of them.

    At that point there is, and cannot be, and moral higher ground.

  • EscherEnigma||

    What it says is that, if true, there is no valid basis for your own judgement that (at least some) atheists are 'better' than what he thinks of them.


    You're assuming judgements not in evidence.

    At that point there is, and cannot be, and moral higher ground.


    You're assuming morality relies on a "soul".

  • ThomasD||

    " taking control of one's biology regardless of whether or not biology is in full control of behavior."

    Unpossible.

    You are either tied to the wheel of biology (full control), in which case all is inevitable consequence of biology; or you already have control and it only varies in the degree of control exerted.

  • ThomasD||

    Determinism is a bitch.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    False, see below.

  • ThomasD||

    You were the one who said 'full control.'

    So not false.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Nuh-uh.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Why does it have to either complete control or no control at all? Why can't you accept that brain chemistry influences behavior, without completely controlling it? Free will is not an either-or proposition either. There are different degrees of our ability to control our behavior, just as there are different degrees to our ability to control our body. A concert violinist has great control of his or her fingers, and a free diver has great control of his or her ability to hold breath under water. This does imply other people have the same ability, but only that they have the potential to develop such abilities with training. The same goes for any efforts to control behavior despite a particular brain chemistry.

  • ThomasD||

    "Why can't you accept that brain chemistry influences behavior, without completely controlling it?"

    For the very reason that you assume a particular cause and effect, rather than the latter.

  • ThomasD||

    I'll make it obvious for you.

    Maybe brain chemistry is as predictive of behavior as exhaust fumes are predictive of automobiles.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Do you understand how statistics work? You can't predict an individual's behavior in a particular situation based on their brain chemistry, but you can predict how a certain percentage of people with a particular brain chemistry will act.

  • ThomasD||

    "You can't predict an individual's behavior in a particular situation based on their brain chemistry, but you can predict how a certain percentage of people with a particular brain chemistry will act."

    You still don't get it. The assertion is that brain chemistry is causative. Which makes me question whether you understand how statistics work. Or, more importantly, how they don't work. Have you even stopped for a second to consider that the differences in brain chemistry are a consequence of the behavior?

    Absent that all you are arguing is that there will be a different response rate between Lagos and Boston if you ask all the redheads in the room to raise their right hand.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    It seems like you are arguing that I am claiming that brain chemistry is the ONLY cause of behavior. No one is making that claim. But it is causative. To argue otherwise is foolish.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Don't be absurd. We know that behavior influences your brain. That's why behavioral therapy works. We also know it works the other way around. That's why alcohol works.

    The mind is a plaything of the body is a plaything of the mind.

  • ThomasD||

    "We know that behavior influences your brain. That's why behavioral therapy works. We also know it works the other way around. That's why alcohol works."

    I don't think any of that proves what you think it does. Unless you consider alcohol a neurotransmitter. At which point we must ask the question where does self end and everything else begin.

  • EscherEnigma||

    At which point we must ask the question where does self end and everything else begin.


    You can if you want, but you have to ignore my point to think I'd care†.
    ________
    †We have plenty of way to affect behaviors thoughts, behavior and actions by fucking with their brain chemistry.

  • ThomasD||

    No, I was politely explaining you don't have a point.

    "We know that behavior influences your brain..."

    What precisely does that even mean? What is meant by 'behavior'? The overt things you do?, the things you think? How do those things occur?

    Ditto for 'brain.' Do you mean the physical organ, or the mind (whatever you choose to think that is) or some unspecified combination of the two?

    And, having answered those questions, how do you propose to establish which is (if any) is causative of the other?

  • ThomasD||

    "behavior influences the brain' is at best an empty platitude. It tells us nothing of the nature of our existence. At worst it is gibberish.

  • EscherEnigma||

    What precisely does that even mean?


    I didn't go nearly deep enough in psychology to get precise. But to put it simply, it means you can treat depression with both drugs and talk therapy.

    Ditto for 'brain.' Do you mean the physical organ [...]


    Yes, obviously. You don't talk about "brain chemistry" when you don't mean the brain that's presumably between your ears.

    how do you propose to establish which is (if any) is causative of the other?


    Carefully.

    It tells us nothing of the nature of our existence.


    Irrelevant.

  • John||

    I either do something or I don't. What does it mean to influence behavior? You can't tell me because no one can. What you are saying is "well sometimes it causes you to do it and sometimes it doesn't', which is a complete fantasy. If I cannot ignore what my brain chemistry tells me, then I have no free will. If I can, then I have free will and am responsible for the times I don't ignore it and give into my base desires. If I can ignore it, then it is me making the decision, not my brain chemistry. So brain chemistry isn't explaining behavior, it is explaining desires.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Do you have six-pack abs, John? Why or why not?

  • John||

    Because I choose not to make the sacrifice to have them. Other people do and they have the same brain chemistry I do. Why do some people like wine and others find it vile? Some things just are. Pointing to some chemical reason for why I find wine good tasting and others don't does nothing to explain why I choose to drink wine or choose to be a teetotaler. Desires are not the same as behaviors.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    I thought you would make this argument, that you are in complete control of all aspects of your behavior. You will forgive me for being skeptical.

  • John||

    I am in control of all aspects of my behavior. If I was not, you could not hold me responsible for my choices. I choose what I eat and whether I work out. If you offered me enough motivation to have six pack abs, I would have them. The fact that I don't have them just means that while they are desirable, the sacrifice necessary to get them is too great for me to choose to have them.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    So you are fat because you choose to be fat, John? Ok, got it.

  • John||

    First, I am not fat. Second, to the extent I am fat, it is because I choose to be. If someone offered you a million dollars to achieve six pack abs, are you telling me you couldn't do it? I guarantee you you would. Just because we give into our desires doesn't mean we are not in control of them. It just means we don't always choose to be in control of them.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Do you and drunk-you make the same decisions?

  • BYODB||

    "A drunk man's words are a sober man's thoughts" is a witticism that readily springs to mind.

  • John||

    Sometimes. Drinking changes the things I desire. And thus changes my behavior because the desires I give into are different than when I am sober. That being said, it doesn't always change my behavior. It depends on how much I want to give into my desires.

  • JFree||

    What does it mean to influence behavior? You can't tell me because no one can

    It means to induce a behavior in others that is known and predictable to the one trying to influence.

    eg Yell fire in a theater. The behavior in others is highly predictable. And it doesn't mean the persons remaining in their seats are exercising their free will. It may just mean they're deaf.

  • Zeb||

    "Biology is destiny" sure is a libertarian thing to believe.

    Yet it may well be true.

  • John||

    I can't see how it is. If it were, people's behaviors would be predictable. And they are clearly not.

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    That's not entirely true. There is a whole industry in profiling and conning people that is devoted to knowing what people will do in certain circumstances. Granted it isn't perfect knowledge, but it's better than shot-in-the-dark blind guessing.

  • John||

    People's behavior can be predicted in the aggregate. But that is just a result of people generally going along with their desires unless they have a reason not to. Predicting people's desires is not the same as predicting their behavior, though it can be a good stand in for it.

    Also, I think that industry's effectiveness is limited. It is limited to people not realizing they are being manipulated. Once people realize that, then the game is up and the manipulation doesn't work anymore. If biology were destiny, that wouldn't be true. If you pushed the right buttons, it would always work even if the people knew they were being fooled. The fact that it no longer works once people are told or understand they are being manipulated is pretty strong proof biology is not destiny.

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    I don't entirely disagree with you, but I think you're being overly absolutist. I don't think this is an either or situation.

  • John||

    It is a complex thing. I do not believe in true dualism. So you are right, it isn't this simple. But it isn't biology is destiny either. And it is close enough to dualism for it not to be very productive to contemplate the odd ways it is not.

  • JFree||

    Also, I think that industry's effectiveness is limited. It is limited to people not realizing they are being manipulated. Once people realize that, then the game is up and the manipulation doesn't work anymore.

    Really? The average person sees/hears/etc 5000+ messages per DAY that are deliberately created to sell you something and to do so by manipulating you.

    'Breakfast is the most important meal of the day". That phrase was created to sell cereal.

    40 hour work week with a weekend off. Thank Henry Ford in 1926 - Why I Favor Five Days' Work With Six Days' Pay who was looking to sell cars.

    Wonder why everything seems to be framed as War on A/B/C. Because that is a phrase that links the testosterone induced instinct of pugnacity with the emotion of anger. The phrase may not work on you - but if it doesn't it won't be because of some choice you make.

  • ThomasD||

    " but it's better than shot-in-the-dark blind guessing."

    Yes, but mainly because it largely consists of iterative blind guessing with subsequent correction.

    Like walking artillery onto the target.

  • Zeb||

    No, I wouldn't really say that biology is destiny. It is obvious (to my mind) that people make all kinds of choices about how to behave. But people also have stable personality traits that manifest in tendencies to behave in certain ways. And unless you are a strict social constructionist I think you have to accept that a lot of that is biologically determined. None of this stuff about correlating political views and personality is supposed to be strictly deterministic. People can and do choose to go against their inclinations all the time. But in the aggregate, I tend to thing it's true. Libertarians, conservatives, liberals, progressives, etc. do seem to tend toward certain personality types.

  • buybuydandavis||

    ' "Biology is destiny" sure is a libertarian thing to believe. '

    Reality is determined by our wishful thinking.

  • susancol||

    How in the world does this even purport to be science?? There are so many missing steps in the "evidence" for the assertions being made that I'd take it for an April Fool's spoof . . . No doubt she's got data from surveys, but no actual data on how the people that filled out those surveys actually tested on the hormone levels or brain activity.

    Grab-a-headline guesswork, pah!

  • ThomasD||

    Lucrative book deals come from celebrity, not science.

    Stephen Hawkins taught them that.

  • The Last American Hero||

    It is also dangerous.

    They can't help it, it's their brain chemistry.
    You will report to your local testing center and submit a sample.
    Your results are in. Please report to cattle car 3.

  • ThomasD||

    Take it one step further. What is it that they think they will accomplish with those cattle cars? And what ever gave them the impression that they were in a position to judge?

  • Robert||

    Not of all the people surveyed, but didn't she say that the test findings were normed to a sample of persons whose hormone levels were known?

  • susancol||

    I could be wrong, but I don't believe she did. I think she took Fact A (different people show different traits and preferences on various written personality tests) and separate Fact B (there are observable changes in traits where individuals are given or otherwise are subject to high concentrations of particular specific chemicals) and leaps to NON-FACT C (the different traits in the written personality tests correlate directly with higher concentrations of a chemical associated with that trait under different circumstances). Not science.

  • susancol||

    I could be wrong, but I don't believe she did. I think she took Fact A (different people show different traits and preferences on various written personality tests) and separate Fact B (there are observable changes in traits where individuals are given or otherwise are subject to high concentrations of particular specific chemicals) and leaps to NON-FACT C (the different traits in the written personality tests correlate directly with higher concentrations of a chemical associated with that trait under different circumstances). Not science.

  • DajjaI||

    The brain's primary function is to concoct increasingly elaborate and incoherent justifications of why every other brain is defective. As will now be demonstrated:

  • Mike Laursen||

    Sigh. Pretty much.

  • John||

    If libertarians are bold, impulsive, quick witted, adventurous, analytical, and willing to ignore social norms, is that because we have especially active dopamine and testosterone systems in our brains?

    What a load of horseshit. Libertarians as a group are some of the most ordinary and normal people on earth. The typical libertarian is a middle class or upper middle class educated professional. He or she is the kind of person whose favorite color is plaid and lives a boringly productive and reasonable life. They are about as far from the stereotype of the pot smoking excentric Burning Man attendee as one can be.

    Indeed, their reliability and reasonableness is their downfall. Libertarians fatal flaw is that they are so reasonable and tend to think that everyone else is just like them or can be if only the government would leave them alone.

  • Old Mexican - Mostly Harmless||

    Contrast them to those who feel they need government otherwise they would all turn into rapists and murderers spontaneously.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    omfg Libertarians are doing Ted Talks now?

  • John||

    If Libertarianism was ever cool or in any way subversive, the fact that Libertarians are now doing Ted Talks means those days are long gone.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Check out General Gross Grammar over here.

  • John||

    I don't know what that means.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Libertarians love to be collectivized.

  • MikeP2||

    Wow, that interview is one ugly mess of pseudoscience.

  • Ron||

    when you start linking political beliefs to medical conditions you can then sensor those belief on a medical basis. Be wary of such tactics to use science to silence those they disagree with.

  • Just Say'n||

    They're controlled opposition at this point. They do as they're told.

  • John||

    That is a great point Ron. It goes to the heart of the problem that people who embrace the biological explanation for behavior ignore; if human beings are just biological machines, then there is nothing special about them and no way to stop people from just declaring anyone they don't like to be defective and less than human.

  • NoVaNick||

    If the "party of science" wants to use neuroscience to start labeling libertarians or conservatives as mentally ill, then they must also accept that such science that shows that a certain ethnic group who is one of their core supporters is also more prone to aggressive or violent behavior. I don't necessarily agree with this "science" in either case, but they love to say that science=facts...

  • John||

    They Fucking Love Science right up until it says something they don't like. The entire thing is insane.

  • The Last American Hero||

    Damn your fast fingers.

  • Zeb||

    But what if it's true? It's not an obviously absurd proposition.

    I agree that there are dangerous possible consequences, but what is the appropriate thing for an honest scientist to do in such a situation?

    I'm not saying that it's great science right now that we should all believe completely, but it is something that could conceivably be scientifically understood some day.

    Do you think that the entire study of psychology should be abandoned? It seems to me that any study of personality leads to similar possible problems. People do have inherent traits and inclinations.

    And looking at things this way isn't necessarily a bad thing. It could also help people to understand that people don't disagree because someone is wrong necessarily, but because different people naturally see the world differently and have different priorities and values.

  • ||

    bold, impulsive, quick witted, adventurous, analytical, and willing to ignore social norms

    I'm also so handsome that it makes women uncomfortable.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    You misspelled "handsy."

  • ThomasD||

    Does this also predispose us to rejecting a materialist reductive view of existence?

    From what objective vantage point does Dr. Fisher claim to make these sorts of determinations?

  • Mark22||

    From what objective vantage point does Dr. Fisher claim to make these sorts of determinations?

    From the same vantage point as Dr. Mengele, Dr. Walter Freeman, and Madison Grant.

  • BYODB||

    I thought we already determined that Libertarians are the result of autistic people getting an education? Now you're telling me it's also because of toxic masculinity?


    Gosh, there are just so many reasons why libertarians are wrong that have nothing to do with their actual arguments!


    /sarc

  • EscherEnigma||

    there are just so many reasons why libertarians are wrong that have nothing to do with their actual arguments!


    Heh, well, yeah.

    As I've said before, I vote Libertarian, support some Libertarian ideas, and am sympathetic to most of the rest. But because of Libertarians, I will never ever be a Libertarian.

    It's similar to that infamous Ghandi quote about Christians.

  • BYODB||


    As I've said before, I vote Libertarian, support some Libertarian ideas, and am sympathetic to most of the rest. But because of Libertarians, I will never ever be a Libertarian.


    I actually sort of agree with this, although probably not for the same reasons you do. Which is fine, of course.

    I suspect libertarianism is a utopianist philosophy that's more of an ideal than something that can actually be achieved, or at least that's how I approach it.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    I can understand the argument that libertarians are high T. We tend to be direct. To paraphrase a Camille Anna Paglia lecture, straight men will be blunt, but women and gay men will talk like drug dealers. You know what I'm saying?

  • Mike Laursen||

    That was kinda wordy.

  • Mark22||

    You know what I'm saying?

    You're saying that you're a gay man?

  • Lester224||

    Conservatives love this biology-is-destiny shit. Anything bad that happens to anyone else is destined due to genetics so trying to help anyone is a waste of time.

    Also, men love anything that indicates they might have high testosterone despite all physical evidence to the contrary.

  • ThomasD||

    Sarcasm?

    Biology is destiny has been a hallmark of the modern left since there was a modern left.

    Conservatism has always been about responsibility. Absent free will there can be no meaningful responsibility. This goes back to the classical period and was picked up and carried by Christianity through to the early enlightenment. After that is when things turned well and truly south.

  • 3clipseDLake||

    Asking if it was sarcasm is wishful thinking. Your comment is spot on.

  • ipsquire||

    The subheading "Is the libertarian mind a product of elevated dopamine and testosterone?" misses the point (as do most commenters, but that goes without saying). The speaker argues for elevated SENSITIVITY to dopamine and T, not absolute levels.

    The good news is - traditional Rs are forced to struggle with admitting "high sensitivity", but at least it's to something akin to Budweiser and Hoppes 9. The traditional Ds are forced to struggle with the idea that estrogen sensitivity isn't a social construct.

  • Eidde||

    That's like the test where they give people greater and greater electric shocks.

    At first they say, "let me out of this shocking machine or you're gonna wish you had!"

    Then they say, "I'll write my Congressperson!"

    Then they say, "I'm really mad at the other political party for making you do this!"

  • 3clipseDLake||

    Sounds like gobbledygook pseudoscience.

  • texexpatriate||

    Baloney! Some people are more rational than others, and many factors influence that, but life experience coupled with information are the main ones. Hormones, genes, chromosomes . . . all those kinds of things also influence people, but life experience coupled with information are the major factors. If it were possible to isolate a huge population of leftists (wishy-washy small-s socialists, Marxists, and Fascists, the people who make up the Democrat Party and vote Democrat today) and compare them with the same size population of small-c conservatives here in America, the reliable Republican voters today, we would conclude that leftists form emotional and irrational political beliefs based on life experience coupled with poor information. The reverse would be true of small-c conservative voters. Because we cannot gather a huge population to test, the best example of this phenomenon is how the young vote and think compared to how older, more experienced adults vote and think. Someone summed this up by noting that there's something wrong with you if you're not liberal when you're young and conservative when you are old. The differences between youth and age is life experience and better information.

  • Bill Goode||

    Helen Fisher, like most psychologists, completely misses the source of thought in humans. Note to Ms Fisher, the brain doesn't do any thinking, no matter how many brains you study and no matter how long you study them, regardless of how many foolish colleagues you convince to do your study with you.

    Thought is done by the spirit, which most psychologists are totally unaware of. Note the origin of the word "psychology" - Greek psyche meaning soul or spirit + ology meaning study of. So psychologists and Ms Fisher should go back to the origin of their subject and start over.

    Psychology as it's practiced today is fraudulent as it concentrates on the brain. The brain is just a piece of meat, which operates as the nerve center of the body, but it doesn't do any thinking If you don't believe me, go get some brains at a morgue and see if you can get them to do some thinking. Likely not, as the missing element is the spirit, which is what really does the thinking

    It's a spirit that knows that 2 + 2 = 4. It's a spirit that decides whether to wage war or peace. It's a spirit that decides whether to grant or accept welfare. It's the spirit that does all the thinking, as the brain is just a piece of meat that has no capability to do any thinking, let alone decide whether to be a socialist or a libertarian.

  • Robert||

    But does spirit influence the hormones?

  • Bill Goode||

    This nonsense about "brain chemistry" is what leads to psychiatric drugging in a foolhardy attempt to "restore" or alter the chemistry of someone's brain. Ms Fisher is indeed a very dangerous person for this reason, as her study may convince some foolish people to check with a psychiatrist to see if their brain chemistry is balanced. Of course the psychistrist won't do any testing to determine such a balance, but he sure will convince such a foolish patient to take some psychotropic drug in a misguided attempt to balance their brain chemistry.

  • buybuydandavis||

    I'm skeptical of the formulation, as the axes are not built from opposites, but *different* axes.

    The opposite of high testosterone isn't high estrogen, but low testosterone.

    Why can't you be high dopamine *and* high serotonin?

  • Bill Goode||

    I would ask Ms Fisher if she actually took a tissue sample from Obama's and Romney's brains to determine their dopamine and serotonin levels. How else would she know their levels of their neurological tissue? By reading news articles and / or biographies? And she would call herself a scientist? What an idiot.

  • buybuydandavis||

    It's fascinating to see all the knee jerk hysteria to the idea that your biology has an effect on your temperament, values, and politics.

    Of course it does. Duh.

    Of what do you think your temperament is made, pixie dust?

  • Mark22||

    Barack Obama, according to Fisher, is high in dopamine, accounting for his optimism, and also in estrogen, which explains the Oval Office rug covered in inspirational quotes. Mitt Romney is in some ways the opposite of a libertarian, high on the serotonin scale, which accounts for his respect for authority, rigidity, and loyalty. Fisher is a senior fellow at the Kinsey Institute and she's the author of six book

    Dr. Fisher's profile, however, shows her to be off the scale in narcissism and deception, and is particularly admired for her work on craniometry and social Darwinism.

    Why is this pseudo-scientific jerk on Reason?

  • The Metonymy||

    So if I overdose on testosterone boosters I'll convert for minarchism to an-cap?

  • The Metonymy||

    *from

  • Echospinner||

    It is pop neuro psycho bio anthropology.

    Very entertaining.

  • The Metonymy||

    I took a whole bottle of Nugenix and now I can't stop calling egoism a spook

  • Eudaimonist||

    Dr. Helen Fisher said that she would give the survey to the people in the audience, who are presumably self-selected libertarians. What were the results? I don't see this mentioned in the video.

  • PaulTheBeav||

    This article feels a little bit like a cold read.

  • nicmart||

    We can officially draw the curtain on the influence of Thomas Szasz and free will on Reason.

  • vek||

    Yeaaah, people are basically biologically destined to come out roughly a certain way. I've done a lot of reading on this subject in recent years. There are strong correlations for virtually EVERY personality trait, musical tastes, etc etc etc with your genetics.

    It's not just hormones either. They've found different wiring in different brains. I believe 8 basic types is what some of the newer science says IIRC.

    But between wiring and hormones that basically accounts for 50%+ of how almost everything about a person will turn out. Will you be outgoing, or shy? Happy or grumpy? All mostly genetics. You can learn about your natural disposition and consciously fight it to some effect... But if you're a grump, your first inclination will always be to be a grump. Even if you know this and go out of your way to think happy thoughts it will never make you as happy go lucky as a naturally happy person.

    This does seem to all effect political leanings too. People are wired to have a leaning, and while how extreme that expression is changes with time, the leaning doesn't.

  • vek||

    Think a bleeding heart liberal in 1975 versus now. They had the same tendencies, but the expression was objectively less extreme positions.

    If you really accept this stuff it HAS to change how you think about politics. I think the trick is to shift the acceptable liberal positions overton window back a few decades. Then the world might become sane again! But we'll never make those people conservative or outright libertarian. You just have to give them a level of bleeding heart that is acceptable to everybody else.

  • prediksi hk||

    bocoran hk

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