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Introduction to Temperament Theory

September 27, 2012

The theory of personality began with temperament, which has traditionally been measured in terms of expressive and responsive behavior. Expressive behavior is generally how much a person approaches others in interaction. Responsive behavior is how much a person wants to be approached by others. These are the terms employed by a modern version of temperament theory, but they have had various names throughout the centuries.

Factoring these two dimensions together generated four temperaments. Here are the basic descriptions:

Melancholy – has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, prone to genius, very creative, mind tends to work overtime, going over and over events of the past, needs alone time to regroup. (Also prone to “black moods”).
Sanguine – fun loving, will leave in the middle of a chore or assignment if they find out there is something fun going on somewhere, never wants to grow up, stressed out if there are not places to go and people to see.
Choleric – a drive to greatness, but will step on your toes to get there, needs lots of appreciation along the way.
Phlegmatic – quite stubborn and set in his ways, uncomfortable with confrontation and seeks peace at all costs to avoid strife, feels he needs sleep to regroup but never gets enough, very annoying to the Choleric as this is the one temperament that cannot be coerced into doing something if they don’t want to.

Here are more detailed descriptions of the temperaments:

We see here, that two are very outgoing and energetic, the other two are slower paced, and two are more “serious”, while the other two are less serious.

These temperaments were named after body fuids, or “humours” which were at the time believed to cause the associated behaviors. (Blood (sanguis), yellow bile (cholera), black bile (melas, “black”, + kholé), and phlegm). This is now known not to be the case, but the names stuck as a good correlator of those fluids to the traits associated with them.
The first form of this matrix tied the humors to the four elements.

Original Galen matrix:

cold hot
wet water/phlegm air/blood
dry earth/black bile fire/yellow bile

Basically, the more outgoing ones are “hot”, the slow paced ones are “cold”, the less serious are “wet”, and the more serious are “dry”.
Eventually, we would get what has become the most popular version of the factors: introversion/extroversion and people/task focus.
Introverts would be the more reserved types, extroverts would be the more outgoing and gregarious ones, people-focused would respond more to people, and task-focused would respond more to tasks and less to people. This one is important to consider, because we would think extroverts would be “people-focused”, and perhaps introverts be “task-focused”, but that is not necessarily the case. And this question comes up a lot in discussions on personality.

It was later determined that one dimension determined how a person expressed, while the other determined how much they wanted from others (also called “responding to”). While people can express themselves as introverts or extroverts, the truly people-focused are those who can be said to respond as extroverts (despite how they actually express), while the task-focused respond as introverts (again, despite how they express).

By using the FIRO-B instrument, whose matrix is graduated from 0-9 to map the temperaments, moderation was introduced into temperament by National Christian Counselors Association, Inc. founders Richard G. and Phyllis J. Arno; as opposed to the dimensions being a hard “either/or”. One major development from the use of moderate scales, was the discovery of a fifth temperament, in addition to the ancient four.

The temperament that was moderate in both scales was determined to be the familiar, ancient Phlegmatic. The Phlegmatic had always fit into the low expressive (introvert, long delay), and people-focused (responsive, short sustain) position of the matrix. However, while the Phlegmatic is not as extroverted as the Sanguine and Choleric, nor as task-oriented as the Choleric and Melancholy; he is neither as introverted as the Melancholy, nor as relationship oriented as the Sanguine. They can basically “take people or leave them”. They both express moderately to people, and respond equally to people or tasks, depending on their low energy reserve, which is their real driving motivation. (Hence, not being very driven). Thus the Phlegmatic (which was even once defined by critics as the absence of temperament), is basically by definition a moderate temperament, or an “ambivert”.

So the low expressive, high responsive area was deemed to be the previously unrecognized fifth temperament.
The Arnos called it Supine, meaning “lying on the back” or “with the face turned upward”. (Think of a dog looking up to or rolling over for his master, or a servant slightly bowed before his master. So instead of body fluids, it’s named after a body position).

This temperament likes people and wants to be accepted, but lacks the mechanism (boldness) to express this need by approaching others, like the Sanguine does. Thus, they use tasks, like service to others, to try to win this acceptance.

A need to have people “read their minds” and know that they want interaction is a trait that is stressed in the APS definitions. Supines also tend to think of themselves as worthless, while others are worthy. Since they depend on acceptance by others, they have problems with guilt.

Other points from the Supine report is “likes to be with people, but they tend to stress him and wear him out (if he is with them for long periods of time). He needs to alternate between being with people, and doing tasks”.

Full article:

  1. Somebody pointed me to this free book (220 p) someone published on the APS concept of temperament:

    God Created You
    A Guide to Temperament Therapy

    by Dr. Rick Martin

  2. Now, someone has VIDEOS on APS!

    Main introduction:

    Each of the five temperaments:

    (I’ll just say that they are apparently VERY Charismatic in doctrine, from seeing their other video topics. Still, for those who prefer audio rather than text, now there is something for you).

    There’s also my review of the book mentioned in the previous comment:

  3. “Consciousness” is a term that gets used a lot in the Jungian framework of the more mainstream type theory, but I see now where it figures directly in the factors of APS. (Just like I had realized the temperaments in the different areas, can be thought of as “ego states”, or essentially, archetypal complexes, like the ones associated with different functions for each type):

    So, the Responsiveness scale can be thought of as dealing in the “consciousness” of the need of people. As God Created You (link in comments, right above) shows, all temperaments, including the Melancholy, need people. (The APS manuals sometimes give the impression that temperaments with low responsiveness or “Wanted” behavior do not have these needs).

    The Sanguine is fully conscious of this need, and then approaches people to have it met. The Supine is also conscious of the need, but his fear of rejection (the low expressiveness that ultimately stems from overstimulation by the environment) leaves him in a bind by pushing him to withdraw and hope the others will prove themselves accepting, and invite him instead.
    The Melancholy is not conscious of the need, and so all he is left with is his fear of rejection, which then pushes him to also withdraw, and not want to be approached, unless a stricter criteria is met. Thus, they will end up with a few people they will want to socialize with.
    The Choleric is not conscious of the need either, however, his lack of fear of rejection (stemming from an understimlation by the environment) leads him to approach others, not to fulfill a need of people in themselves, but for his goals.
    So in both of these latter cases, the need is there, just not as conscious as the former two.
    The Phlegmatic tends to be conscious of the need (at least, moderately so), but his low energy doesn’t push him, to either approach or want others beyond a certain point. So he can take them or leave them.

  4. Foud this page, which gives good descriptions on the four classic temperaments, plus 12 blends:

  5. In this comment: I discussed the realization that extraversion and introversion were based on stimulation specifically of dopamine. Now, I’ve seen someone suggest the other factor of temperament is based on another chemical, serotonin!

    Dopamine: “I want.”
    Serotonin: “I am satisfied.”

    Sanguine: High Dopamine, High Serotonin
    Wants a lot out of life and is easily satisfied. Energetic and happy.

    Melancholic: Low Dopamine, Low Serotonin
    Wants little out of life but is not easily satisfied. Slow and depressive.

    Choleric: High Dopamine, Low Serotonin
    Wants a lot out of life but is not easily satisfied. Energetic and drawn to intensity.

    Phlegmatic: Low Dopamine, High Serotonin
    Requires little of life but is easily satisfied. Slow, calm and undemanding.

    (I would say, again, Phlegmatic would be moderate, and this would lead to their less “driven” behavior; while Supine would be low dopamine and high serotonin. It should also be pointed out that “responsiveness” has corresponded to “wanted behavior”, but this refers to want of interaction from others, or more accurate, the strength of the criteria one has in responding to uninvited interaction. People who are less satisfied will tent to have stronger criteria in who they will allow to approach them. So then dopamine “I want” would define want by the level we approach others for our goals. So the Choleric, for instance, “Wants” others for the goal more than they want the actual interaction from others).

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Supine “service”: introverted or extraverted Feeling? « "ERIPEDIA"
  2. Renamed Fifth Temperament Becomes TV Trope | "ERIPEDIA"

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