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 Home » Tutorials » Psychology » Personality



Type Approaches

As we explained above, personality types are used to represent and communicate a set of expected behaviours based on similarities. Efforts to categorise people into personality types have been made since ancient times. The Greek physician Hippocrates had proposed a typology of personality based on fluid or humour. He classified people into four types (i.e., sanguine, phlegmatic, melancholic and choleric); each characterised by specific behavioural features.

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In India also, Charak Samhita, a famous treatise on Ayurveda, classifies people into the categories of vata, pitta and kapha on the basis of three humoural elements called tridosha. Each refers to a type of temperament, called prakriti (basic nature) of a person. Apart from this, there is also a typology of personality based on the trigunas, i.e. sattva, rajas, and tamas. Sattva guna includes attributes like cleanliness, truthfulness, dutifulness, detachment, discipline, etc. Rajas guna includes intensive activity, desire for sense gratification, dissatisfaction, envy for others, and a materialistic mentality, etc. Tamas guna characterises anger, arrogance, depression, laziness, feeling of helplessness, etc. All the three gunas are present in each and every person in different degrees. The dominance of one or the other guna may lead to a particular type of behaviour.

Within psychology, the personality types given by Sheldon are fairly wellknown. Using body build and temperament as the main basis, Sheldon proposed the Endomorphic, Mesomorphic, and Ectomorphic typology. The endomorphs are fat, soft and round. By temperament they are relaxed and sociable. The mesomorphs have strong musculature, are rectangular with a strong body build. They are energetic and courageous. The ectomorphs are thin, long and fragile in body build. They are brainy, artistic and introvert.

Let us remember that these body typologies are simple, and have limited use in predicting behaviour of individuals. They are more like stereotypes which people hold.

Jung has proposed another important typology by grouping people into introverts and extraverts. This is widely recognised. According to this typology, introverts are people who prefer to be alone, tend to avoid others, withdraw themselves in the face of emotional conflicts, and are shy. Extraverts, on the other hand, are sociable, outgoing, drawn to occupations that allow dealing directly with people, and react to stress by trying to lose themselves among people and social activity.

In recent years, Friedman and Rosenman have classified individuals into Type-A and Type-B personalities. The two researchers were trying to identify psychosocial risk factors when they discovered these types. People characterised by Type-A personality seem to possess high motivation, lack patience, feel short of time, be in a great hurry, and feel like being always burdened with work. Such people find it difficult to slow down and relax. People with Type-A personality are more susceptible to problems like hypertension and coronary heart disease (CHD). The risk of developing CHD with Type-A personality is sometimes even greater than the risks caused by high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, or smoking. Opposite to this is the Type-B personality, which can be understood as the absence of Type-A traits. This typology has been further extended. Morris has suggested a Type-C personality, which is prone to cancer. Individuals characterised by this personality are cooperative, unassertive and patient. They suppress their negative emotions (e.g., anger), and show compliance to authority. More recently, a Type-D personality has been suggested, which is characterised by proneness to depression.

Personality typologies are usually very appealing, but are too simplistic. Human behaviour is highly complex and variable. Assigning people to a particular personality type is difficult. People do not fit into such simple categorisation schemes so neatly.

Trait Approaches

These theories are mainly concerned with the description or characterisation of basic components of personality. They try to discover the ‘building blocks’ of personality. Human beings display a wide range of variations in psychological attributes, yet it is possible to club them into smaller number of personality traits. Trait approach is very similar to our common experience in everyday life. For example, when we come to know that a person is sociable, we assume that s/he will not only be cooperative, friendly and helping, but also engage in behaviours that involve other social components. Thus, trait approach attempts to identify primary characteristics of people. A trait is considered as a relatively enduring attribute or quality on which one individual differs from another. They include a range of possible behaviours that are activated according to the demands of the situation.

To summarise, (a) traits are relatively stable over time, (b) they are generally consistent across situations, and (c) their strengths and combinations vary across individuals leading to individual differences in personality.

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