Introduction to Temperament Theory
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: http://fourtemperaments.com/Description.htm
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:
|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”.