When one thinks about personality tests these days, the most talked about is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which is almost a benchmark that most of the corporate world uses to assess future employees. There are also various pop-quizzes available online or on Facebook that seem to tell what colour are you or what celebrity you are. The essence of all these quizzes and tests are something that is innate in humans, which is the curiosity to know about oneself. And this is not a recent phenomenon as in this post I will talk about one of the oldest personality tests that we came up with. It’s called the Temperament test.
What is Temperament?
Before I trace the origins of this test, you must have heard the word Temperament and may even have some vague understanding of it. The loosest meaning one associates it with is with one’s mood. But there’s more to it that meets the eye. Temperament, apart from being our attitude towards life, is an essential part of the overall personality that describes the initial state from which personality develops and links individual differences in overall behaviour. The study of temperament, Rothbart has argued, is old as Hindu Upanishads and as recent as studies on molecular genetics (Rothbart, 2006).
Greek Origins – Temperament Test
The origins of this test lie way back in the Graeco-Roman era. The Greek physician Hippocrates came up with the concept of four temperaments – Sanguine, Phlegmatic, Choleric, and Melancholic (which I will discuss in detail in a bit), which was a part of his overall work on humorism. The theory relies on the balance of our bodily fluids and any dominance of one resulting in the overall health of the person. The four bodily fluids that Hippocrates talked about are – Blood, Phlegm, Yellow Bile, and Black Bile.
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Galen, a physician, further using these bodily humors and named the personality types according to their respective dominance.
- Sanguine – Blood
- Phlegmatic – Phlegm
- Choleric – Yellow Bile
- Melancholic – Black Bile
From this conceptualisation came the oldest personality test, the Four temperaments test. It has had an influence on later formulations of tests like Carl Jung’s inspired MBT. Now, let’s discuss each personality type in detail.
Sanguine – The Adventurer
As the bodily fluid dominant in this type is blood, signifying a desire for adventure, the people belonging to this type are usually adventurous, fun loving and always craving for people’s attention. Sanguine personalities are optimists, buoyant, carefree, and cannot tolerate getting bored. They constantly crave things to do and cannot sit idle.
This attribute means that a person with a sanguine personality can be a great artist. They are also great entertainers as they are the life of a conversation and of the party. The ideal activities for this type of person are travelling, going to social events, and also unplanned plans. They also love working with others so best career for them would be which where close connectivity with people is the norm. More concrete examples of jobs would be marketing, fashion and interior designing, and even sports
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Phlegmatic – The Social Butterfly
People with this temperament type are very social. They are a people person and love maintaining interpersonal harmony with them. They are also loyal and tend to maintain relationships – be it friends or family – for most of their lives.
Phlegmatic people would go to great lengths to avoid getting involved in a conflict. They also like to help other and indulge in charity work. They may usually like doing volunteer work during their free time. Examples of jobs for phlegmatic personalities include nursing, counselling, social work, and teaching.
Choleric – The Aspirant
Choleric people are goal oriented and love being organised. They are extremely pragmatic and straightforward when it comes to real life situations. Due to their high levels of pragmatism, they sometimes are not the best companions.
They love a challenge and are highly disciplined. They are able to think logically and do not let emotions influence their decisions. They love having meaningful conversations with like-minded people. Ideal work environments for them would be engineering, data analyst, programming, and also entrepreneurship.
Melancholic – The Thinker
Lastly, people belonging to the Melancholic personality type are reserved but very knowledgeable. They love working alone as they perform the best when they are by themselves. They are, as the name suggests, very thoughtful and considerate when it comes to problems of the people.
They are also very creative and self-reliant, as they hardly require anybody’s help in their work. The downside that may happen to these attributes is that one can get obsessive over little things which may have a negative influence on others. Ideal jobs for people like these are accounting, research analyst, writer, artist etc.
In Conclusion – Harry Potter and the Four Temperaments
Before I finish off, a quick example from the world of popular culture and how the four temperaments can still be considered relevant when it comes to personality types. In the book, and later in the films, students at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry during initial orientation, as it were, are sorted via a magical hat. The magical hat divides the students into four houses. Each house can be considered the four temperaments here.
The Gryffindor house represents the people who are courageous and ambitious, signifying the Sanguine type. Students who are studious and love details represent the Ravenclaw house. Whereas house Slytherin represents students who are cunning and shrewd can be considered to represent the Choleric personality. And Hufflepuff house represents students who are loyal and trustworthy, which are similar characteristics of the Phlegmatic personality. So, think about it, which wizard house you belong to? The answer may surprise you!
Till then cheers and be awesome!
Rothbart, Mary K., ” Temperament, Development, and Personality“. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2007: Vol. 16, pg. 207