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.
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.