History of Temperament and Temperament Theory

"Tradition has it that fat men are jolly and generous, that lean men are dour, that short men are aggressive, and that strong men are silent and confident. But tradition is sometimes wise and sometimes stupid, for seldom does it distinguish between the accumulated wisdom of the ages and the superstitions of ignorance."

The doctrine of temperament can be traced to the theory of humors which is a microcosmic form of the macrocosmic theory of the four elements (earth, water, air, fire) as first proposed by Empedocles (V B.C.) and the four qualities (dry, wet, cold, hot). Humoral theory states that there are four body humors, and their proper mixture is the condition of health. The theory is ascribed to the school of Cos and more precisely to Polybos, son-in-law to Hippocrates (Sarton, 1954). Before him, the greek hylozoists had devoted their attention to the cause of illness and the function of the humors as evidenced in the teachings of Anaxagoras and more so in those of Democratis and Alcmeon (Roback, 1928).

The four humors are fluid substances: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. A healthy condition is a result of balanced proportions to each of the humors in respect to their combination, strength, and quality. Discomfort and pain result from either a deficiency or excess of any one or combination of these fluids. Each humor/fluid is differentiated by its color, evident tactile differences, degree of warmth or cold, and differences in dryness and moisture making temperaments subject to seasonal and temperate influence. The principles of therapy were based on cure by opposites (allopathy) (Levine, 1971).

The theory of temperaments was the fourth in this dialectic ascension of theories. Temperament theory suggested that though the proportions of the humors may vary considerably, they could be reduced to four types of mixtures or temperaments (crasis) according to the predominance of a given humor. Since there were four humors, it was proposed that there could only be four temperaments and therefore four kinds of healthy equilibrium, not one, and that men could be subdivided into four psychological groups named after the prevalent humor: the sanguine, buoyant type; the phlegmatic, sluggish type; the choleric, quick-tempered type; and the melancholic, dejected type. The theory was alluded to in the Hippocratic The Nature of Man (Peri physios anthropou) and its elaboration was continued by Eristratos (III-1B.C.) and by Asclepiades (I-1B.C.). The Greek physician Galen's (130-200A.D.) treatise, Pericraison, De temperamentis was so well formulated that it remained the standard authority until the 16th century, when Andreas Vesalius and, later, William Harvey amended Galen's theories with their medical discoveries.

East Indian traditional Ayurvedic medicine has its basis in humoral theories. That is, the human body is a macrocosm of the universe. The seven body substances-bone, flesh, fat, blood, semen, marrow, and chyle-are the product of three humors: kapha, or phlegm; pitta, or bile; and vata, or wind. Health depends on the equilibrium of these humors, and sickness is a disequilibrium. The point of equilibrium depends on age, sex, temperament, climate, nutrition, and the nature of daily activities.

A smaller branch of traditional medicine on the subcontinent, and one common to Muslin areas, is the practice of Yunani or Unani. This is the medicine of the ancient Greeks, translated into Arabic and Persian and then slowly modified by its practitioners, the Hakim. The works of Galen are excepted figuratively and in detail. True to this Mediterranean tradition, the medicine has four humors: yellow bile, black bile, phlegm, and blood. These humors combine with the four primary qualities of heat, cold, moisture, and dryness. If the humors and qualities are in equilibrium, a person is healthy; if not, illness results.

Human differences have been the subject of faith, theory, and observance throughout history. Gnosticism was a religious philosophical dualism that professed salvation through secret knowledge, or gnosis. The movement reached a high point of development during the 2nd century A.D. in the Roman and Alexandrian schools founded by Valentius. The Gnostic sects set forth their teachings in complex systems of thought. Characteristic of their position was the doctrine that all material reality was evil. Central to their convictions of salvation is the freeing of the spirit from its imprisonment in matter. In Gnostic thought, a divine seed is imprisoned in every person. The purpose of salvation is to deliver this lost seed from the matter. Gnostics classified people according to these three categories: (1) Gnostics, or those certain of salvation, because they were under the influence of the spirit (pneumatikoi); (2) those not fully Gnostic, but capable of salvation through knowledge (psychikoi); and (3) those so dominated by mater that they were beyond salvation(hylikoi). Temperament theory played a predominant role in Gnostic faith.

Wycliff's sermons, published in 1380, appear to be among the first English literature to allude to the temperaments, or rather, the humors. Shakespeare described the four temperaments in Cynthia's Revels and later in Every Man Out of His Humor. Robert Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy provides a detailed description of the humoral doctrine.

Further speculations arrived with the onset of the scientific revolutions of Copernicus, Galilei, and Harvey. At the onset of the eighteenth century, Andreas Rudiger in his Physica Divina reduced the number of elements responsible for temperamental differences to two: aither as cause of the light qualities, and air as cause of the heavy qualities. With Harvey's discoveries of the circulation of the blood, temperament emphasis shifted from the composition of the blood to its movement as the determinant of differences in temperament. "In a word, the humoral doctrine was beginning to change into a solid theory." (Roback, 1928, p.48).

Stahl and later Hoffman, proposed to take into consideration three factors into their temperament theory: (a) the constitution of the blood, (b) the porosity of the tissue, and (c) the width of the blood vessels. Haller in the middle of the eighteenth century laid the beginnings of modern experimental physiology resulting in the theory of humors receiving a permanent setback. Haller proposed that the connection between the blood and the temperaments is not a necessary one but that parts through which the blood flows, or rather their strength and irritability, are fundamental in accounting for temperamental differences. With research in nerve physiology, the doctrine of temperaments took a new direction. The nervous system was not to be the seat of temperament (Roback, 1928). Chief among the new scholars was a student of Haller. Wrisberg combined the four humors into a double category: choleric-sanguine, and melancholic-phlegmatic.

At this same time, the science of philosophy stepped in to "dismiss all the materialistic theories as either worthless or so highly speculative as to be of little assistance" (Roback, 1928, p.50). Plater's Philosophische Aphorismen and Kant's Anthropolgie produced new sets of temperaments. Platter proposed that temperaments be composed of: (a) the attic or mental, derived from the preponderance of the higher physic organ (auditory, visual, and tactile); (b) the animal temperament, resulting from the preponderance of the second organ over the first; (c) the heroic temperament, where both organs or systems are well matched; and (d) the faint temperament produced by the lack of energy in either of the two organs. Kant's treatment of character places temperament between two marks of individuality which he calls characteristic and character. Temperament is regarded by Kant to be a mode of sensibility. "The temperaments he considers both as physiological facts, such as physical constitution and complexion of humors, and psychological tendencies due to the composition of the blood" (Roback, 1928, p.52).

The phrenologistic teachings of Gall and Spurtzheim attempted to create a new science which purported to localize abilities and disabilities to specific regions of the brain, and dismissing the determinate faculties. Spurtzheim in Phrenology in Connection with the Study of Physiognomy considered the study of temperaments as the first step in phrenology. Phrenological temperaments became known as (a) the motive, based on the muscular system, (b) the vital, indicating a predominance of the alimentary system, and (c) the mental temperament, drawing its strength from the nervous system.

Toward the middle of the eighteenth century, the French physician Halle distinguished between general temperaments, partial temperaments, and acquired temperaments. General temperaments were linked with the vascular, nervous, and motor systems. Partial temperaments corresponded to the various regions of the body and the fluids, pituita, and bile. The acquired temperaments resulted from environmental influences on the primary temperaments (Roback, 1928).

The study of temperament in the nineteenth century represents an embodiment of ideas from immediate predecessors. Influenced by the powers of electricity, Schelling felt that temperaments shared the same fate of opposites as did electricity. Organisms were said to contain two polar principles of gravity and light (substance and movement) which "were it not for the predominance of the one or the other in the individual, would yield total identity, where all differences would be obliterated" (Roback, 1928, p.63). Temperament anomalies occurred when there was an imbalance in the three dimensions. Temperaments according to Johannes Muller became the forms of psychic life. A co-worker of Muller, the German-Jewish anatomist Jacob Henle, based his theory of temperaments on the tone of the nervous system, speed of the reaction and its duration (Roback, 1928).

In 1795, Shiller conceptualized two psychological types, the Idealist and the Realist. The German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche in his first book, The Birth of Tragedy (1872; English translation, 1968), introduced his famous distinction between the Appolonian, or rational, element in human nature and the Dionysian, or passionate, element as exemplified in the Greek gods Apollo and Dionysis. With a blend of the two principles, either in art or in life, humanity achieves a momentary harmony with the Primordial Mystery. The Swiss writer of epic poetry, stories, novels, dramas, and essays, Carl Georg Friedrich Spittler in his epic Prometheus and Epimetheus (1881; English translation, 1931), reflecting the pessimism of Schopenhauer and the romantacism of Niezsche describes two types called Prometheus and Epimetheus.

In 1892, Pilo's Nuovi Studi sul Caratter looked for the basic differences of man in the chemical composition of the blood and its thermicity. Pilo identifies four general temperament characters: the plethoric, the serious, the bilious, and the lymphatic. In 1907, Dr. Erich Adickes proposed dividing man into four world views: dogmatic, agnostic, traditional, and innovative. Alfred Adler spoke similarly of four mistaken goals: recognition, power, service, and revenge. In 1920, Eduard Spranger told of four human values that set people apart: religious, theoretic, economic, and artistic (Keirsey, 1984). The American philosopher and psychologist William James, one of the founders and leading proponents of pragmatism, considered philosophies to be expressions of personal temperament and developed a correlation between tough-minded and tender-minded temperaments and empiricist and rationalist positions in philosophy.

Carl Gustav Jung (1923), felt he possessed two separate personalities: an outer public self involved with the world and his family and peers and a secret inner self that felt a special closeness to God. The interplay between these selves formed a central theme of Jung's personal life and contributed to his later emphasis on the individual's striving for integration and wholeness. Jung proposed that motivation be understood in terms of a general creative life energy-the libido-capable of being invested in different directions and assuming a variety of different forms. The two principal directions of the libido are extroversion (outward into the world of other people and objects) and introversion (inward into the realm of images, ideas, and the unconscious). Persons in whom the former directional tendency predominates are extroverts, while those in whom the latter is strongest are introverts. Jung also proposed to group people according to which of four psychological functions or types is most highly developed: thinking, feeling, sensation, or intuition.

Shortly after the publication of Jung's book, Psychological Types, Ernst Kretschmer (1925) published his book, Physique and Character in which he describes the "Cycloid" and "Schizoid" types. In 1942, William Sheldon published The Varieties of Temperament in which he presents a system for treating the problem of individual differences in terms of what appears to be basic components of temperament. These components in turn are tied back to and interpreted in terms of basic components of morphology. The emphasis is upon the constitutional factors, upon the relatively stable qualities of an individual that give him his basic individuality. Sheldon's study extended through a period of five years analyzing the morphological and temperamental characteristics of 200 young men. Sheldon created a scale for temperament based upon 60 traits categorized into three groups: Viscerotonia-characterized by general relaxation, love of comfort,sociability, congeniality, gluttony for food, for people, and for affection; Somatotonia-characterized by a predominance of muscular activity and of vigorous bodily assertiveness; and Cerbratotonia-characterized by a predominance of the element of restraint, inhibition, and of the desire for concealment.

A major breakthrough in typology came in 1942 with the emergence of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Isabelle Myers and Katherine Briggs based their conceptual framework on the typology created by Carl Jung. They felt that differences concern the way people prefer to use their minds, specifically the way in which people make judgements. Myers and Briggs identified "perceiving" as the process of becoming aware of things, people, occurrences, and ideas. "Judging" includes the perceived process of coming to conclusions. Together, perception and judgement govern much of one's outer behavior.

Joseph Hill (NP) looked to develop in education the level of precision and accountability found in medicine and law. He based his work on Gestalt psychology and research by Kagan and Witkin. Hill developed the concept of cognitive style mapping and the classification of learners in terms of sensory preference; Auditory, Visual, or Tactile-Kinesthetic.

In 1928, William Marston in Emotions of Normal People investigated motor consciousness as the basis of feeling and emotion. Marston's psychonic theory of consciousness traced the affective consciousness to mechanistic-type causes; that is, to nerve impulses, thence to bodily changes and, ultimately, to environmental stimuli. Marston viewed people as having two axis with their actions tending to be active or passive depending upon the individual's perception of the environment as either antagonistic or favorable. By placing these axis at right angles, four quadrants were formed with each circumscribing a behavior pattern; dominance produces activity in an antagonistic environment, inducement produces activity in a favorable environment, steadiness produces passivity in a favorable environment, and compliance produces passivity in an antagonistic environment. Marston proposed that learning by inducement and submission is pleasant; learning by trial and error (compliance and dominance) is painful.

Walter Clark's Activity Vector Analysis (AVA) was developed as a psychometric instrument around Marston's theory. John Geier's (1972) Personal Profile: WORK Behavior Characteristic Interpretation, describes behaviors in terms of how others see you, your behavior under pressure, and how you see yourself. This theory of dimensional behavior adheres to the precept that behavior changes can and does take place. The four-section indicator developed by Geier tests for Dominance (D), Influence (I), Steadiness (S), and Compliance (C).

Keith Golay, 1982) described four basic and distinct learning types by the individual's pattern of learning. Based on the work of David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates, as well as Isabelle Myers, Golay believes that personality predisposes the learner to certain ways of thinking, wanting, liking, and acting. Golay classifies learners as; Actual Spontaneous, Actual Routine, Conceptual Specific, or Conceptual Global.

David Keirsey (1984) combined Kretschmer's temperament hypothesis with Jung's behavior description, and with Nietzsche's and Spitteler's Greek typology. Keirsey notes themes in the various observations and the consistent tendency of human behavior. He observed four patterns: Sensing Perceiver (SP), Sensing Judger (SJ), Intuitive Thinker (NT), and Intuitive Feeler (NF). These four patterns are temperaments-the way in which human personality interacts with the environment.

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    Peter L. Heineman
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