Rog the Builder

November 15, 2010

Interpersonal Relationships More than Mating

According to: Helen Fisher, Why him? Why her?: finding real love by understanding your personality type. Henry Holt and Company, c2009.  289p.

According to book jacket blurbismo, Helen Fisher, Ph.D., is one of the world’s leading experts in the nature of romantic love and attachment.  She is the scientific adviser to the online dating service, Chemistry.com, for whom she did much of the work that undergirds this book.  Otherwise, she is a research professor of anthropology at Rutgers University.

Fisher’s inventory, “My Personality Type Study,” analyzed the responses of 39,913 members of Chemistry.com by four scales in its questionnaire.  Each scale has fourteen statements; respondents answer each statement as to level of agreement – strongly disagree, disagree, agree or strongly agree.  Subsequent scoring indicates a personality profile, a combination of the two highest-ranking types – Explorer, Builder, Director, and Negotiator.

Fisher briefly equates her four types with the preferences in their Myers-Briggs equivalents.

Fisher Percent MBTI
Explorer 26.0 Perceiving
Builder 28.6 Sensing, Judging
Director 16.3 Thinking
Negotiator 29.1 iNtuition, Feeling

For whatever reason, Introversion and Extroversion do not appear in these comparisons.  However, just as there are 16 types in Myers-Briggs, Fisher has sixteen types resulting from any two highest score combinations.  However, she hardly discusses any of these sixteen as though such variations do not account for differing personalities and mating matches.

As is my case with many kinds of questionnaires, I find some of the questions impossible to answer.  Either they are vague, bend to different interpretations, or remain incomprehensible as to what is meant.  Scale I asks questions 5, 6, 13 about being more optimistic, creative, energetic than most people.  How do I know this beyond mere impression?  Scale III asks if I am “tough minded?”  What does this tough-minded mean?

When I counted the scores, which unanswerable questions affect, they ranked Builder – 51, Director – 38, Negotiator – 23, Explorer – 3.  In other words, I wind up tagged as a Builder/Director.  What is the sense of this combination?

The BUILDER/Director has a streak of the independent, innovative thinker, comprising an unusual balance between conventionality and originality.  Like Directors, BUILDER/Directors want a partner with whom they can have deep and focused conversations.  Yet they are literal and emotionally contained.  So these conversations must be concrete, factual and informed.  BUILDER/Directors are probably the most ambitious and hardest working of the Builders even on a date. – page 132

Fisher talks repeatedly about variation in psychological type, but never in a determinative way, more as a caution and awareness of those personality characteristics that are out of type for a person of the type.  Builders equate with loyalty, an emphasis on order, tradition, being conscientious, doing what they ought.  George Washington is an archetype for the Builder.  Religiosity is a Builder characteristic (p.78-79), but some Builders will be atheists.  Fisher sees religion as equivalent to “self-transcendence” and the experience of the mystical.  I see myself as religious when I acknowledge the transcendence of God in relation to my own soulfulness, but base my acknowledgement of the otherwise unknown on ancient testimony and go on my from there by what teaching rationally follows.  In Word Type Study, the words “moral, morals, values” attract Builders as they do me.

As Builders identify with loyalty, so Directors with resourcefulness.  Albert Einstein (1879-1955) is the Director prototype; he was one of my chief heroes when I was a teenager.  Directors are supposed to be attracted to machines because of how machines work as a system.  I am not mechanical but attracted to human systems, primarily social systems and systems of thought – concept-formation, intellectual history, theory, philosophy, theology.  I do not have the spatial skills associated with Directors or musical or athletic ability, but I am analytical, logical and direct.  I have the autonomous personality of a Director, but am far from competitive as one.  Collaboration is my métier; neither do I want control over anyone except myself.

Though I did not score high on the Negotiator, termed “the philosopher king,” of which Charles Darwin is the example, I favor being philosophical with some Negotiator characteristics, chiefly mental flexibility, deep personal connections (though few), and introspection.  I am not convivial, social, or routinely aware of my surroundings unless deliberate in focusing my attention about me.

Certainly, I am far from the Explorer, an adventurer.  I remain adventurous only about ideas; otherwise, I am cautious, but not fearful.  Risk does not excite me; I strive to minimize risk.

Incidentally, being a Builder/Director with Negotiator in third ranking corresponds to me being an NTJ out of my Myers-Briggs profile: INTJ.

I am not sure what to make of Fisher’s claims.  I regard her scales as faulty and her lack of the full run of 16 types as insufficiently explained and misleading.  Mostly I question her arguments based on “what we are dealt,” which in her case means the chemicals that run the brain.  Explorers are dopamine-rich; Builders high on serotonin; Directors blessed with testosterone and consequently 2.3 men to women; Negotiators washed over with estrogen, 1.5 women to men.  Fisher mentions that her next survey will take blood samples to measure hormone levels in her various types.

Fisher maintains that Directors tend to have a longer ring finger than a pointer or index finger, due to a surge of testosterone in the womb.  I have it, and so does everyone in my family including a son-in-law.  (The Internet is full of references to studies by Alison Bailey and Peter Hurd that correlate finger-length indexes with aggression and other characteristics.)   Fisher seems to be the main source of the personality affinity claim.  I remain dubious.

See the other typology approaches listed on the My Type page.

Copyright © by Roger Sween 2010.

I welcome comments on this post.  Send personal comments to me at rogdesk@charter.net.