What is Temperament?
Why do some people hate to swim and others love it? Why are some people efficient and organized while others are unproductive and disorganized? Why do some people explode with anger when others would pout and withdraw? Why do some people become leaders and others are content to follow? Why does one person want an explanation for everything and another follows his gut with no questions asked? Is it luck, genetics, environment, the stars and planets, parental conditioning, or something else?
“People are different primarily because they possess different natural traits or tendencies, referred to as temperament. There are other factors that make us different including gender, when we were born and to whom, early home-life, the culture in which we were raised, education, motivation, our environment, and how we responded to these things. Nothing, however, influences daily behavior like temperament. Humanly speaking, nothing has a more profound influence on your behavior than your inherited temperament. The combination of your parents’ genes and chromosomes at conception is largely responsible for your actions, reactions, emotional responses, and to one degree or another, almost everything you do.” 
"...every human is born with genetically inherited 'behavioral tendencies' that are as much a part of their DNA as their eye color or finger-print."
Temperament refers to a person’s natural disposition, the way in which one will consistently behave. The concept of temperament recognizes that people are born with natural ways of behaving, such as being assertive, friendly, passive, or analytical. It is a person’s temperament that makes him outgoing and extroverted or shy and introverted.
Temperament is Not the Same as Character
Temperament has nothing to do with a person's character or their level of maturity. It is what a person is apart from problems. Here is my definition: "Temperament is a cluster of inborn traits that causes you, in part, to do what you do. "
Temperament is Not a "Type"
A distinction needs to be made between a "trait" and a "type." "Types" are considered to be categories into which a person may either fit or not fit. For example, a person could be seen as either an extrovert or introvert.
Temperament Represents a Cluster of "Traits
"The four temperaments are represented by four distinct groups of "traits" or tendencies. Each cluster of traits produces a distinct manner of behavior that is different from the other groups For example, the Choleric cluster of traits differs widely from the Sanguine cluster of traits and each will demonstrate different behavior. The Phlegmatic and Melancholy have their own unique cluster of traits that also differ widely from each other.
Each trait can be placed on a continuum from low expression to high expression. For example, one may possess the trait of being social to a high degree, moderate degree, or almost not at all.
The temperament model does not embrace the type approach to behavior. Types are restrictive and narrow in their scope and they do not leave room for different degrees of expression or development by an individual. Allport stated, "A man can be said to have a trait; but he cannot be said to have a type, rather he fits a type."
The temperament model embraces the trait approach which allows for a particular trait to be possessed and developed to varying degrees.
Temperament, therefore, represents natural traits or tendencies with which a person is born. How well these natural traits are developed depends on the individual's motivation. Work ethic and a person's purpose/passion in life are also important factors in how the traits or tendencies benefit the individual.
Temperament is What a Person is Most of The Time
Temperament represents the way a person relates to others and responds to events. It is what you have observed and expect someone's behavior to be, most of the time. It is a set of in-built dispositions we are born with and is mostly unalterable. Each person comes with a factory installed wiring. How a child is wired can determine whether they will be easy or difficult to raise. When parents understand the temperament of their children they can avoid blaming themselves for issues that are normal for their child's temperament. Some children are noisier than others. Some are more cuddly than others. Some have more regular sleep patterns than others.
Perhaps you have referred to someone as "shy" or "outgoing." Without realizing it you were referring to certain temperament traits. These traits are what you know and expect the person to be every time you are with them. Temperament behavior is, for the most part, predictable. The exceptions being, as Dr. Geier pointed out, when one temporarily experiences strong emotions such as anger or fear, or one is trying to deceive another. Actually, acting is a form of acceptable deception. A person is knowingly acting like they are someone else. Unfortunately, some purposely act like someone they are not in order to deceive. When this occurs it is difficult to determine their temperament.
Society would not be able to exist if behavior was not basically predictable. Imagine what life would be like if everyone was different every time you met them. Imagine the chaos. Without consistency in people, without predictability, society simply would not survive.
Temperament is a Force
Temperament is a force within that represents various traits or tendencies that produce an urge, drive, and appetite. Whatever temperament is, it is acting as a force that urges, even drives a person to act in a particular manner.
As an appetite or void, temperament is something that requires satisfying. This force urges, even drives a person to act in a particular manner until the temperament is satisfied. The obvious example is when you are hungry you have a need to be satisfied and to fill the void. So you eat, and when you do you are satisfied, the void is filled and you are no longer hungry. Temperament is that way. It pushes or urges you to behave according to the tendencies that represent your temperament blend.
It motivates a person to act according to their natural, innate tendencies.
For example, there are those who are natural people-people. They enjoy being with, around, or just standing by others. They like to talk, have fun and be active with others. There is a force within that person that urges them to do this. Ask one with this social bent and they will tell you, "I just want to be around people." Conversely, there are those who are private in nature and they prefer not to be with, around or by others. There is an equal force within them that urges them to avoid contact with others. Both are normal and both have a push inside to cause them act according to their natural tendencies.
Temperament is a Need
Temperament represents inherent needs. Let's use Abraham Maslow's definition of need. He says that a need is something that if you do not have it you get sick. Air, food, and water are physical needs without which anyone would become ill and even die. Temperament is a need without which, of course, one will not die if the needs are not met, but can indeed become emotionally and physically sick.
Temperament is a need which drives or motivates a person to act according to their natural, innate tendencies. If the needs are not met, the individual will not feel well about themselves or function efficiently.
A temperament need represents what is important and highly desirable in the core of an individual. A need is a drive that urges one to behave in such a manner until it is fulfilled. Meeting temperament needs is critical to a person's feeling of self-worth and sense of value.
Let's use the sociable temperament (Sanguine) as an example again. As a people-person they enjoy being with, around or standing by others. They also enjoy talking. Being with people and talking are needs. If this person is not with, standing by, or talking to people on a regular basis, they simply will not feel well about themselves and will feel "out of sorts." They may begin to experience anxiety, confusion, frustration, or even depression. They feel themselves when they are engaged in some social activity.
This is just one of the four temperaments and the others will have specific needs as this one, but all will be different from each other. The needs represented by the four primary temperaments are natural and normal and each person is driven to have those needs met.
Everyone, therefore, should provide adequate satisfaction for their "temperament needs" in order to be at their best. For example, Cholerics need to see quick results; Sanguines need to be with people; Phlegmatics need a stable environment; Melancholies need a detailed plan.
 The Temperament Model of Behavior, John T. Cocoris, pg 9
 Personality Issues, reydonstanford.com/id20.html
© 2009 John T. Cocoris. All Rights Reserved.
The idea that behavior is related to a person's natural tendencies or temperament has been around for at least 2,400 years. There have only been a handful of men that have contributed to the development of this concept:
HIPPOCRATES (470 -360 B.C.). Throughout history there have been many attempts to explain why people are different. One of the first systems developed was Astrology, which looked outside of man to explain the differences. There were twelve "signs" symbolized by earth, air, fire and water. Hippocrates, however, looked inside of man to explain the differences. He believed that behavior was determined by the presence of an excessive amount of one of four fluids or humors. These four humors were thought to be related to the four elements of earth, air, fire and water. Hippocrates, and other early Greeks, thought that an excess of one of the four humors produced a particular temperament and behavior.
The word "temperament" comes from the Latin word temperamentum and means right blending. The Greeks thought that a person's "temperament" was therefore made up of a blending of these four fluids.
- An excess of yellow bile from the liver (Chlor) resulted in a temperament believed to be warm/hot and dry, and associated with the element of fire [Choleric]. It caused a person to be domineering, brief, direct, and to the point.
- An excess of red bile or blood from the heart (Sangis) resulted in a temperament believed to be warm/hot and wet, and associated with the element of air [Sanguine]. It caused a person to be loud, friendly, and people oriented.
- An excess of white bile from the lungs (Phlegm) resulted in a temperament believed to be cool/cold and wet, and associated with the element of water [Phlegmatic]. It caused a person to move slower but steadily.
- An excess of black bile from the kidneys (Melan) resulted in a temperament believed to be cool/cold and dry, and associated with the element of earth [Melancholy]. It caused a person to be an analytical, quality oriented perfectionist.
Hippocrates and the early Greeks were accurate in their observations of behavior but were incorrect about the origin of these tendencies. They are not created by the excess of a fluid, but we would say that they originate from some genic predisposition.
GALEN (129 - 203) was a physician, who lived 600 years after Hippocrates and was responsible for popularizing the temperaments during his time and relating them to illness. He is credited with coining the terms, Choleric, Sanguine, Phlegmatic and Melancholy.
IMMANUEL KANT (1724 - 1804) described the four temperaments in his book, Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, 1798.
NICHOLAS CULPEPER (1616-1654) was the first to dispute two fundamental concepts that had existed since the time of Hippocrates. First, he rejected the idea that the four "humors" were the cause of a person's temperament. Secondly, he was the first to say that a person is influenced by two temperaments, one primary and one secondary. Before Culpeper, it was believed that a person had only one temperament.
WILLIAM M. MARSTON (1893-1947) was the first to contribute scientific evidence that people fit into one of four categories. He published Emotions of Normal People in 1928 using the terms: Dominant, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance. Marston studied the emotions of normal people because research had centered around the emotions of abnormal people during his era. In his experiments he created a hostile environment and then observed the behavioral response of those he exposed to this environment. Repeatedly, the Cholerics would face the aggressor head on, the Sanguines would run from the danger, the Phlegmatics would freeze and do nothing. The Melancholys would also run, but they would stop, think about it and formulate a plan, and then return to face the aggressor.
OLE HALLESBY contributed penetrating insight into the behavior of the four temperaments. In his book Temperament and the Christian Faith, written in the 1930's, he used the terms, Choleric, Sanguine, Phlegmatic and Melancholy.
JOHN G. GEIER built on the works of William M. Marston (1928), Walter Clarke (1940), and John Cleaver (1950). Clarke was responsible for developing the Activity Vector Analysis using the four dimensions of Aggressive, Sociable, Stable, and Avoidant. From this, Cleaver then created a 24-question, forced-choice instrument.
From these Geier was the first to develop (by factor analysis) an instrument that identified an individual's behavioral style (temperament blend) and identified 15 classical patterns. These are patterns that frequently reoccurred on his instrument. Dr. Geier developed the Personal Profile System instrument in 1958 and eventually formed the company Performax to market the materials to the business community (early 1960's). His DiSC profile enabled business companies to build a more effective team and match a person's natural tendencies to a specific task. He used the terms: High "D" (Dominant); High "I" (Influencing); High "S" (Steadiness); and High "C" (Competent).
TIM LAHAYE was the first to popularize the concept to the Christian community. Dr. LaHaye published the first of several books in the late 1970's using the terms, Choleric, Sanguine, Phlegmatic and Melancholy. He wrote about the dynamics of the temperament blends.
The ancient Greeks observed people and speculated on the reasons for their behavior. Their observations were supported in later centuries by a wide variety of people including medical doctors and philosophers. In the early 1900's the scientific method was applied by Marston with the same results. The concept has been observed for centuries and verified by science that people fall into four categories, and everyone describes the four basically the same.
So it is worthy to note that this concept of temperament, that each person is born with natural tendencies which affect his or her behavior, has been steadily developing for over 2400 years. Terms have changed over the years, but the thought process remained consistent. Each successive study validated the research before it, bringing us to a point of accuracy today.
© 2009 John T. Cocoris. All Rights Reserved.