11th EMBL/EMBO Science and Society Conference
The Difference between the Sexes - From Biology to BehaviourEMBL Heidelberg, Germany Friday 5 November - Saturday 6 November 2010 Registration closed
Rutgers University, USA
Helen Fisher, PhD, is a Visiting Research Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Rutgers University. She uses brain scanning (fMRI) to study the neural systems associated with human romantic love and attachment. She has studied pair-bonding and sexual infidelity in birds and mammals, divorce patterns in 58 societies, patterns of adultery in 42 cultures, gender differences in the brain and behavior, personality in a sample of 40,000, and biological patterns of mate choice in a sample of 28,000 men and women. Her books include: WHY HIM? WHY HER?; WHY WE LOVE; THE FIRST SEX; ANATOMY OF LOVE; and THE SEX CONTRACT, each published in several languages. Her recent lectures include those at The World Economic Forum (Davos), TED, The Aspen Institute, Harvard Medical School, The United Nations, The Smithsonian Institution, The Salk Institute, The National Press Club, The Boston Museum of Science, American Psychiatric Association, Deloitte, Procter & Gamble, Bank of America and the Guggenheim Museum. Among her recent articles are those in the Journal of Neurophysiology, Journal of Comparative Neurology, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, Archives of Sexual Behavior, and Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, and in books published by MIT Press, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Yale University Press. Since l983 Dr. Fisher has served as an anthropological commentator and/or consultant for businesses and the media internationally. For her work in communicating anthropology to the lay public, Helen received the American Anthropological Association's "Distinguished Service Award." For her full CV see: www.helenfisher.com.
Sex Differences in Temperament: How four primary brain systems build gender differences (and similarities) and guide mate choice
Personality is composed of traits an individual acquires, dimensions of character; and traits with biological underpinnings, dimensions of temperament. Many traits of temperament are heritable and linked to specific gene pathways and/or hormone or neurotransmitter systems. Academic literature associates specific constellations of temperament traits with four broad yet specific human neural systems, the dopamine (DA)/norepinephrine(NE) system, and the serotonin (5HT), testosterone(T) and estrogen(E)/oxytocin(OT) systems. For example, activities in the DA/NE system are associated with risk taking, novelty seeking, boredom susceptibility and disinhibition, as well as energy, enthusiasm, physical and intellectual exploration, cognitive flexibility, curiosity, idea generation and verbal and non-linguistic creativity. Alleles of the serotonin system are associated with sociability and extroversion, as well as religiosity, conformity, orderliness, conscientiousness, concrete thinking, self-control, sustained attention, low novelty seeking, and figural and numeric creativity. Traits linked with testosterone expression are heightened attention to detail, intensified focus, emotional containment, emotional flooding (particularly rage), aggressiveness, less social sensitivity, and heightened spatial and mathematical acuity. Verbal fluency and other language skills are linked with estrogen activity. Empathy, nurturing, the drive to make social attachments, and other prosocial skills are associated with estrogen and oxytocin. Estrogen activity is also associated with contextual thinking, imagination and mental flexibility. This paper discusses the traits associated with these four biological systems, a new measure of these four temperament dimensions (Fisher-Rich-Island-Neurochemical Questionnaire, or FRI-NQ), and data on 1.24 million anonymous men and women collected on the Internet dating site, Chemistry.com, to show how the sexes vary in the expression of these four neural systems. The paper then discusses data collected on 28,128 anonymous members of Chemistry.com to show the mate choice preferences of men and women primarily expressive of each of these four temperament dimensions. Heterosexual men and women primarily expressive of the DA/NE system are initially attracted to one another, as are heterosexual men and women primarily expressive of 5HT. But heterosexual men and women primarily expressive of T were initially attracted to those primarily expressive of E/OT, and heterosexual men and women primarily expressive of E/OT were initially attracted to those primarily expressive of T. The sex steroids, testosterone and estrogen, appear to play a role in temperament and mate choice.