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Temperament - we call it the innate personality traits that we have inherited from our ancestors. Temperament largely determines our functioning in the family and society - it determines the speed of our reaction in specific situations, the pace of performing specific activities, and the ability (or lack thereof) to easily interact with other people. Read what types of temperament we distinguish and find out which type best describes your personality!

Temperament: what is it?

Temperamentmanifests itself in our early childhood, and even right after birth and infancy - we can see that some children are calmer, others cry all the time, and still others they smile often. Temperament is more evident in childhood than in later years, when the natural personality traits are supplemented by a developing intellectual sphere.Temperamentwe inherit from our ancestors and it becomes the foundation of our personality. It is the starting material on which we will shape our personality.

Scientists emphasize that temperament is all that remains after subtracting general intelligence and cognitive abilities (e.g. visual, verbal). Temperament manifests itself primarily in our everyday behavior - in how emotionally we react to stimuli, how we cope in situations of danger or conflict.

Types of temperament according to Hippocrates and Galen

Ancient scholars - among them the father of medicine Hippocrates - thought about temperament and its definition. He found that in every human being there is a proper proportion of four juices - humors. These juices are black bile, yellow bile, blood, and phlegm. In the 2nd century CE another doctor lived - Galen, who assigned a temperament to each of the juices.

1. Phlegmatic

As you can easily guess, phlegm is dominant in phlegmatic patients. A person with this type of temperament is distinguished by high self-control, it is difficult to throw him off balance, and therefore he is considered a trustworthy person. A phlegmatic is a very good listener, he can carefully observe people and assess the course of a given situation from the side. A person with this type of temperament works slowly, and therefore prefers to do work that does not require rush. A phlegmaticit takes a long time to build an emotional and intimate relationship - first, he has to trust someone and then open up to him.

2. Sanguine

The sanguine is dominated by blood. Like the phlegmatic, he is considered a stable person, but this is where the similarities end. Sanguine is distinguished by an optimistic approach to life, he is open, outgoing - he is often the life of the party. Sanguine has no problem with entering into interpersonal relationships, although he may sometimes seem too dominant and imperious. The best kind of work for a sanguine is one that requires quick action and decision-making. Sanguine is emotional, and he does not hide these emotions.

3. Melancholic

Black bile dominates in the melancholic. A melancholic person is a pessimist, and on a daily basis they are accompanied by fears, a fear of how their future will turn out. This type of temperament is distinguished by lack of self-confidence, oversensitivity to criticism - the opinion of other people is often more important for a melancholic than what he thinks about a specific topic. A melancholic is able to listen to others, and he chooses his friends very carefully. Once someone is allowed to approach you, the bond usually remains very solid. Melancholic is prone to reflection, has an artistic soul, which is why he will be perfect as a writer, painter or musician. A person with this type of temperament does not make decisions easily, he is often offended because he is not sure of his value.

4. Choleric

Choleric, like a sanguine, is a type who likes to act, dominate. However, while in a sanguine these features usually do not become very large, in a choleric, they can turn into anger, aggression - so that the person may even arouse fear among other people. Choleric is ambitious, he likes to make decisions and take difficult challenges. He likes to see himself in the role of a leader, although he can be a ruthless boss. People with this type of temperament do not like when someone disagrees with their opinion, they have difficulty accepting often constructive criticism.

Types of temperament according to Pavlov

Ivan Pavlov was a Russian physiologist, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine. He, too, made a breakdown of the temperament types, but took into account the features of the central nervous system that he considered innate. The scientist also made the assumption that it is the CNS that controls our behavior. When establishing his classification, Pavlov took into account the strength of the arousal process (the most important factor determining temperament in his opinion), protective inhibition, balance and mobility of nervous processes.

According to Pavlov's division, the melancholic is a weak type,while the strong type is divided into two subtypes - unbalanced, represented by choleric people, and balanced - slow (phlegmatic) and mobile (sanguine).

Types of temperament according to Jan Strelau

The Polish psychologist Jan Strelau also contributes to the classification of types of temperament. Strelau defined temperament as "a set of relatively permanent personality traits that are manifested in formal behavioral characteristics (energy and time parameters). These traits occur in early childhood and are common to humans and animals"1 .

According to Strelau, temperament works on two levels - energy and time.

1. Temperament on the energetic level

It is distinguished by emotional reactivity, within which we recognize sensitivity and efficiency. Highly reactive people are characterized by low efficiency because they cannot cope with difficult situations and react too emotionally. In turn, low-reactive people are distinguished by greater efficiency resulting from lower emotional sensitivity.

Temperament on the energy level is also an activity that includes the intensity and frequency of our actions. Those who are highly reactive at the same time are not active because they avoid any conflict situations. On the other hand, the low-reactive are more active because they need constant stimulation.

2. Temperament on the time level

At the time level, the type of temperament is primarily determined by briskness, i.e. our ability to react quickly in a given situation, the ability to adapt our behavior to the circumstances. Endurance is also important, i.e. appropriate response to the action - strong and long-lasting - of a specific stimulus .Another factor is perseveration - unchanging behavior also after the time when the stimulus that caused it has ceased to work. The last parameter is sensory sensitivity, i.e. our reaction to stimuli of low sensory value.

Worth knowing

Temperament is not everything

Although it is the basis of our personality, temperament does not ultimately determine our success (or the lack of it) in our personal or professional life, about our everyday functioning. We can emphasize or hide its individual features in specific situations, especially when we are adults and learned from experience.

Nowadays, many psychologists also emphasize that temperament is not synonymous with personality - it is only one of the elements of its structure.


1. J. Strelau, Psychology of temperament, Wydawnictwo Ossolineum, Wrocław1992.

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