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biology of attraction

Why him? Why her? The biology behind love and attraction

When we feel a strong intrinsic attraction to a person, we say our “chemistry” matches. But what is this “chemistry,” and which “chemistries” are attracted to each other? A group of anthropologists claims that people can be divided into four personality types, each associated with producing specific biochemical substances and hormones. These types are:

  • The “explorers”. They are people who love risk and innovation; they are impulsive, optimistic, creative, and energetic. These traits are linked with the dopamine system.
  • The “builders”. They are careful, proactive, calm, sociable, persistent, and loyal people. Builders express more of the traits associated with the serotonin system.
  • The “directors”. They are characterized by directness, determination, competitiveness, logical thinking, intransigence, and ambition. Directors express traits linked with the testosterone system.
  • The “negotiators”. They are compassionate, altruistic, and analytical people and express traits linked with the estrogen system.

Most people have traits from all four types, but one is primary – the rest are secondary. It should be noted that although testosterone is considered a male hormone and estrogen is regarded as a female hormone, these hormones are produced by both men and women at different levels.

But who is attracted to whom? According to data based on 40,000 people using a dating site, the “explorer” is attracted to “explorers” and the “builder” to “builders” – meaning that these two personality types are attracted to similar people. Conversely, “directors” are attracted to “negotiators” and vice versa, i.e., these personality types are attracted to their opposites.

This data suggests that our biological predisposition pushes us towards certain personality types. However, whether we eventually choose to stay with these types is related to many other factors. For example, an “explorer” may be attracted to a personality type like theirs but ultimately prefer to have children with someone loyal and family-oriented such as a “builder”.

So, when a couple walks into the therapist’s office, they come not only with luggage from their childhood but with biologically based variations in whom and how they love. These predispositions are worth knowing as the therapist embarks upon the journey into their clients’ hearts.

Evie Kirana

Ref: Fisher H (2012) “WE HAVE CHEMISTRY!” The Role of Four Primary Temperament Dimensions in Mate Choice and Partner Compatibility Psychotherapist 52:8-9.

Helen Fisher, who has a Ph.D. in biological anthropology, is a research professor and member of the Centre for Human Evolution Studies in the Department of Anthropology, Rutgers University, and chief scientific advisor to the internet dating site, She has conducted extensive research and written five books on the evolution and future of human sex, love, marriage, gender differences in the brain, and how your personality type shapes who you are and whom you love.

Watch her talk about love and attraction: A must-watch video for all therapists!