Continuing on from my attempts to
devise a hypothetical underpinning for Flow, I now present the
equivalent speculations for Temperament Theory.
This post will mean nothing to you
unless you are familiar with either Temperament Theory or
Myers-Briggs Typology. This post builds upon various previous pieces
posted here, including:
This isn’t the first time I have
attempted to tie Temperament Theory to neurology. If you are pretty
clued up on the subject, you can read my amusing first attempt at
speculating in this area, based solely on my understanding of the
functions of digital neural networks.
The idea that people type perfectly
into fixed patterns is not something most psychologists who work with
Temperament Theory uphold. Rather, we all express these different
patterns at different times, and to different degrees. But we can
usually pick out a greater influence of one or more patterns over the
others in the case of individuals. In this piece, I suggest that
these behavioural patterns can be linked to a neurobiological
The Rational temperament is the easiest
of the four behavioural patterns to link to neurobiology, since it is
relatively clear that the elements of this pattern – precise
abstract thinking, interest in efficient operations, pragmatism,
focus on structure, problem solving – correlate with the actions of
the decision centre of the brain (the orbito-frontal cortex), at
least as a hypothetical assertion.
Since it now seems that areas of the
brain vary in size according to the degree that they are used, it
should be possible to test this claim by comparing the size of the
orbito-frontal cortex in those who type as NT/Rational, to those who
type weakly in this area.
Again, this one is not too difficult to
speculate at the neurological level. The Guardian pattern is
associated with organisations and logistics, the maintenance of
procedures and systems, duty and trust, and goal-orientation. This
strongly suggests a neural system linking the association areas
(hippocampus) with the pleasure centre (nucleus accumbens).
Indeed, the Judging axis of
Myers-Briggs (which is an aspect of the Guardian pattern), which is
associated with goal-orientation seems to strongly correlate with
increased reward (increased release of dopamine) from the pleasure
The affiliative aspect of the Guardian
pattern (belonging to organisations and identities) presumably
relates to the social centre (hypothalamus), but again, linked to
memory via the association areas. In other words: your memory tells
you who and what to trust (based on your prior experience), and your
hypothalamus thus generates trust and a sense of safety (belonging)
when you are with those people you identify with.
Thus in the Guardian pattern
established norms (learned by the association areas) create goals
involving the maintenance of systems and execution of logistics, and
these goals release dopamine, thus reinforcing those behaviours.
Here, I have to take something more of
an intuitive leap, but I believe the Artisan pattern can be
understood in part through the mechanics of Flow I described last
week. Since the Artisan pattern is process-oriented (expressed by the
Perceiving axis in Myers Briggs, which becomes subsumed in the
Artisan pattern in Temperament Theory), it seems reasonable to
suppose that this behavioural pattern relates to the steady release
of dopamine in the pursuit of uncertain outcome in preference to the
pursuit of the goal itself. In other words: for people in whom the
Artisan pattern is more strongly expressed than Guardian, taking
actions is marginally more compelling than achieving goals. Perhaps
it will transpire that the differential between the dopamine released
during the pursuit of uncertain goals and the dopamine released on
achieving a goal is less pronounced in the Artisan pattern than in
the Guardian pattern.
The pattern itself is associated with
the desire to have an impact through freedom of action, a concrete
pragmatism, spontaneous creativity, hedonism, impulsiveness and
sometimes compulsiveness. A weaker relationship between association
areas and the pleasure centre, coupled with an increased influence of
the sensory cortices (with their associated power to release dopamine
via curiosity) may be a factor here.
Artisan is rendered as SP
(Sensing-Perceiving bias) in Myers-Briggs terminology, but note that
unlike the other Sensing pattern (Guardian, which is SJ –
Sensing-Judging bias) there is no obvious role for the hypothalamus
here. The Artisan pattern thus veers towards independent behaviour,
in common with the Rational pattern (thus suggesting the basis of
their common link, a focus on the pragmatic over the affiliative).
Finally, the Idealist pattern is
associated with abstract language use (in common with the Rational
temperament), a search for meaning and significance, and a focus on
motivations, with an emphasis on empathy and unity.
Sharing in common with the Guardian
pattern the affiliative bias, it is likely that the social centre
(hypothalamus) plays a role in this pattern, but whereas for Guardian
I suggested a link between this brain region and memory (i.e. with
the association areas), for Idealist this doesn’t seem to be the
case. An Idealist is likely to feel a sense of unity with almost any
person, which may reflect the role of the hypothalamus when it is
involved in rather different neural connections. It is difficult not
to suggest the mirror neurons as an element in empathy, and the
parietal lobe has been linked with both mirror neurons and empathy,
suggesting its involvement with this pattern.
A likely additional element is the
fusiform gyrus, a part of the temporal lobe about which there is
still some dispute, but which has been linked to both language skills
and abstraction (as well as face and body recognition and the
processing of colour information). Informally, I have observed a
greater interest in colour among people who express Idealist, which
might serve as an additional supporting factor, however tenuous at
Summary of Components
Modern Temperament Theory works on the
basis of three axes of comparison: abstract versus concrete language
skills, affiliative versus pragmatic actions, and structure versus
motive focus. Each of the four Temperament patterns is distinguished
by these three axes, even though in principle only two would be
required to generate four patterns.
Based upon my hypothesis above, the
following links between these axes of distinction and various areas
of the brain would be suggested:
Abstract: either decision
centre/orbito-frontal cortex (in Rational) or language
centre/fusiform gyrus (in Idealist) or both with different degrees
Concrete: either the
various sensory cortices, or the memory association
areas/hippocampus, or both (in both Guardian and Artisan).
(in both Guardian and Idealist), coupled either with the memory
association areas (in Guardian) or empathy regions i.e. mirror
neurons/parietal lobe (in Idealist).
Pragmatic: probably the
orbito-frontal cortex (in both Rational and Artisan), either in
isolation (in Rational) or in concert with the memory association
areas/hippocampus (in Artisan).
Structure: either decision
centre/orbit-frontal cortex (in Rational) or the memory association
areas/hippocampus (in Guardian), or possibly both with differing
degree of emphasis.
Motive: either mirror
neurons/parietal lobe (in Idealist), or anticipation of reward in
the context of the pleasure centre/nucleus accumbens, possibly with
an adjunct role for the orbito-frontal cortex (in Artisan).
Of course, some of these correlations
begin to look somewhat forced if the hypothetical mechanisms can be
validated, but this was always likely to be the case in such a
This in turn allows us to suggest the
equivalent substitutions for the Myers-Briggs axes as follows:
currently not covered in this hypothesis.
identical the Abstract versus Concrete distinction, above i.e.
memory association areas/hippocampus and sensory cortices for
Sensing versus decision centre/orbito-frontal cortex and/or language
from Pragmatic-Structure versus Affiliative-Motive, above, that is,
decision centre/orbito-frontal cortex versus hypothalamus and/or
mirror neurons/parietal lobe.
pleasure centre/nucleus accumbens, in two modes: goal-oriented (i.e.
seeking maximum dopamine) in Judging versus process-oriented (i.e.
seeking continuous supply of dopamine during pursuit of uncertain
reward) in Percieving.
Notice how the correlations for the
Myers-Briggs axis have little in common with the axes of comparison
in modern Temperament Theory, reflecting the different assumptions
behind both systems.
According to the hypothesis presented
here, the following components represent the underlying elements of
the neurobiological systems which in turn generate common recurrent
patterns of observable behaviour reported by both Myers-Briggs
typology and modern Temperament Theory:
Pleasure centre (nucleus
Decision centre (orbito-frontal
Language centre (fusiform gyrus)
Association areas (hippocampus)
Social centre (hypothalamus)
Mirror neurons (parietal lobe et
As a game designer and not a
neurological researcher, I am not in a position to investigate this
further, but a research team consisting of both psychologists and
neurobiologists should be able to investigate these claims, should
anyone be sufficiently motivated to do so.
That just about does it for the speculative neurobiology for now. I'll try and get some specific games-related pieces onto ihobo in the near future.