Introduction to Temperament

"Shakespeare did not have to wait for Kretschmer's 'Physique and Character' to know that his Falstaff must be quite fat, and his ruthless Cassius have a lean and hungry look at least to achieve the most convincing theatrical effects."

A study of individual differences becomes a need to recognize parameters. Temperament research, as an important aspect of the study of human psychology, emphasizes a concern for the person's individuality. "Man's increased understanding of himself and his world has been a major ingredient in the history of human society. The chief intellectual characteristic of this history has been man's ability to increasingly remove himself from the concrete experience of the phenomenological 'here and now' and place himself in an abstracted world of concepts and logic" (Thomas & Chess, 1977, p.vii). Individuals acting without knowledge of preference do not have the option of choosing to act differently; this option comes with self-awareness. "When a person becomes self-aware, he is in a position to acknowledge responsibility for that which he does including that which he does to himself, to acknowledge that he is the cause of his actions and thus to take ownership of his life. Self-responsibility grows out of self-awareness" (Kocinski, 1984, p.171).

There exists a proliferation of temperament theories and assessment instruments. The tenets of temperament theory are as basic as Empedocles' elements and as complex as the human mind. How an individual behaves can no more equivocaly be categorized as four preferences or four hundred. The convenience of labels provides practitioners and learners with a grasp on theoretical constructs. It enables us, as noted by Thomas and Chess (1977), "to concert biological unity of an organism and its surroundings into a logical separation between constitutional and environment" (p.viii). Temperament can not be considered independently but must be reviewed in context with the individual's abilities and motives as well as environmental influences and opportunities.

The twentieth century doctrine of temperament theory represents the product of a dialectic ascension that originated with man's first attempts to understand self and others' behaviors. Galen based his temperaments on the humors of Polybos and Hippocrates and the school of Cos. The humors, in turn, were a refinement of the basic elements and qualities. Adickes, Adler, and Spranger looked at the influence of temperament on man's values, goals, and world views. Jung's and Kretschmer's contribution to temperament theory was to break away from the traditional Hippocratic system to propose instead a classification based on the then-modern system of psychiatric diagnosis. Additional theories were a product of their time and were influenced by a lineage of temperament studies.

As Claridge (1985) points out, however, it would be wrong to claim that the kinds of theory which have so far guided research on temperament can hope to give a complete account of personality, as we normally understand that term. The cyclic interest in temperament research that is evident in the literature parallels a growing understanding of the rubric of personality in which the psychology of personality address the interrelationship among behavioral, personality, and environmental variables. The conceptual theories of type and temperament focus on individual behavior resulting from some interaction with the environment.

Defining Temperament

Temperament preference-as a component of the individual's cumulative tendency of perception, retention, and organization-is a characteristic indication of the individual's natural tendency of responding to and using stimuli. It is a representative indicator of the distinctive behaviors of how a person learns and seeks from and adapts to the environment. Temperament is the behavior style or how of behavior as contrasted with the abilities, or what of behavior, and the motivations, or why of behavior. It is n-dimensional. Temperament is the characteristic phenomenon of an individual's emotional nature, including his susceptibility to emotional stimulation, his customary strength and speed of response, the quality of his prevailing mood, and all the peculiarities of fluctuation and intensity of mood. It determines and is the result of unique combinations of personality preference. It can denote a moderation or unification of otherwise disparate forces, a tempering or concession of opposing influences, an overall coloration or tuning, a kind of thematization of the whole, a uniformity of the diverse (Chess & Thomas, 1991; Talwar, Nitz & Lerner, 1991; Sheldon & Stevens, 1942; Allport, 1961; Zarghani, 1988; Keirsey, 1978).

The term temperament is a rubric; an umbrella that covers more specific concepts. Temperament, although often used synonymously, should not be confused with psychological type. Type is a term invented by C. G. Jung to identify the preferred mental activity involved in perceiving which are sensing or intuition and the preferred mental activities involved in judging which are thinking and feeling and which are demonstrated in either an extraverted or introverted attitude. Psychological type represents the patterns of how people perceive and make judgements. It is a predisposition to certain ways of thinking, wanting, and emoting and which give rise to constancies in behavior (temperament) of the time (Kocinski, 1984; Jung, 1921; Golay; 1982; Holtzman, 1988).

Bates (1986) summarizes the study of temperament noting:

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    Peter L. Heineman
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