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Temperament Theory

Temperament theory describes four organizing patterns of personality and is based in descriptions of behavior that go back over twenty-five centuries. It tells us the "why" of behavior, our motivators, and sources of deep psychological stress. Knowing our temperament patterns tells us our core needs and values as well as the talents we are more likely to be drawn to develop.



Historically, the concept of temperament was part of the theory of the four humours, with their corresponding four temperaments. Four temperaments is a proto-psychological theory that suggests that there are four fundamental personality types, sanguine (optimistic leader-like), choleric (bad-tempered or irritable), melancholic (analytical and quiet), and phlegmatic (relaxed and peaceful). This concept played an important part in pre-modern psychology, and was explored by philosophers such as Immanuel Kant and Hermann Lotze.

In psychology today, temperament refers to those aspects of an individual's personality, such as introversion or extraversion, that are often regarded as innate rather than learned. Dr. David W. Keirsey drew upon early models of temperament when developing the Keirsey Temperament Sorter. Although Keirsey initially named his temperament groups after Greek gods (e.g. Dionysian, Epimethean...) he later modernized the names as Rational, Idealist, Guardian, and Artisan.

Keirsey's four temperaments correspond to the Myers-Briggs groupings: NT, NF, SJ, and SP. Keirsey also divided his four temperaments into two categories (roles), each with two types (role variants). The resulting 16 types match the personality types described by Briggs and Myers.

Other researchers have built upon Keirsey's temperaments, changing names or adding new "lenses" through which to observe temperament. Linda Berens has built upon David Keirsey's Temperament model, using slightly different names for each temperament. True Colors is a personality profiling system created by Don Lowry. It uses the colors green, blue, orange, and gold to identify the four psychological temperaments. Personality Lingo, a nomenclature developed by Mary Miscisin, pulls together the named and colored temperament models, adding still another set of names to the mix.

Four Temperaments By Many Names

Lest you think that one set of descriptive names should be enough, consider that different people may view the same words from different contexts. Multiple descriptive terms for the same temperament may make those temperaments more accessible to a wider audience. Some models (e.g. True Colors, Personality Lingo, and others) use color terms.

  • NT -- Rational, Theorist, Thinker, Analyst, Intellectual, Conceptualizer, Green

  • NF -- Idealist, Catalyst, Connector, Diplomat, Visionary, Mediator, Blue

  • SJ -- Guardian, Stabilizer, Planner, Sentinel, Protector, Traditionalist, Gold

  • SP -- Artisan, Improvisor, Mover, Explorer, Creator, Experiencer, Orange

Improviser, Stabilizer, Theorist, and Catalyst are trademarks of Linda V. Berens, PhD.


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Topic revision: r17 - 14 Aug 2017, VickiBrown
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