If you ever wonder why people act a certain way, it is usually based on their temperament which ultimately determines their thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and how they react to things in the outside world. These differences are what makes each person completely unique. While people are born with these innate temperament traits, it is believed that various environmental factors can shape these behaviors and traits affecting an individual’s overall personality and shaping who they are. 

To fully understand how temperament can affect your personality, it’s important to first know the traits which make up an individual’s temperament and how they contribute to each specific classification, determining thoughts, behaviors, and interactions ultimately contributing to one’s own unique personality. 

What is Temperament?

Temperament is considered an aspect of someone’s personality or mood patterns which may dictate their emotional disposition and how they react to the world around them. Your temperament is your biological nature that can dictate how you think and feel, your overall demeanor, your reaction to adversity and successes, as well as your predisposition to mental health conditions. Studies show that certain temperament traits can predetermine your risk of developing mental illness.

 While we may be born with determined, innate traits, personal experiences, culture, the individuals we connect with, and the desire for personal growth and improvement may also influence our overall personality. Many psychologists recognize 9 traits which make up an individual’s temperament.

  • Activity Level – The individual’s regular movement and body activity
  • Biological Rhythms – What is their sleep/wake cycle and routines?
  • Sensitivity – The individual’s reaction to external stimuli
  • Intensity of Reaction – Energy of mood reaction
  • Adaptability – The ability and time it takes the individual to adapt to change or adversity
  • Approach – Their response to new stimuli, do they approach or withdraw?
  • Persistence – Level of determination in difficult activities, how easily do they give up? 
  • Distractibility – Level in which they get distracted   
  • Mood – Level of their positive moods versus negative moods

Every individual has their own unique combination of these traits which make up your personality and are what makes everyone different. However, many psychologists believe temperament traits can be grouped together in specific combinations and classified as certain temperament types to predict how a person may behave or react to their environment. 

4 Temperament Types

The original temperament types theory created by Hippocrates and later built upon by Galen, has four core temperaments in which individuals’ moods, behaviors, and personality traits are thought to be dictated by. While individuals may have a primary temperament type, most researchers believe individuals don’t necessarily fall wholly under one classification and usually have a secondary temperament type as well, creating a combination of temperaments which make up their personality. 

And while most individuals may fall somewhere along the spectrum of these types, it is completely normal for individuals to experience the broad range of all human emotions. External circumstances can sometimes alter how we think or behave. For example those who may tend to be optimistic may experience intense grief over the loss of a loved one. 

While these four are the original standard temperament types, today there are various classifications of human temperaments and personality traits. However, most modern theories are based off a variation of these four core types. These four fundamental temperament types are:

Sanguine – Extroverted, Adaptable, & Active

Individuals with a sanguine temperament are thought to be people-oriented, outgoing, flexible, and extroverted. Individuals who fall under this temperament type are often optimistic, impulsive, may love adventure and expressing creativity.  

However, those with a sanguine temperament may tend to be forgetful or often late to meetings or obligations. This temperament may be more prone to pleasure-seeking behaviors due to their impulsive, adventurous nature and can potentially develop issues with addiction. 

Choleric – Extroverted, Ambitious, & Assertive

The choleric temperament is another extroverted type which is considered the most ambitious of all temperament types and also the most rare. Choleric types often make great leaders as they are considered to be logical, motivated, assertive, and goal-oriented.

Choleric individual can also be incredibly competitive, dominating, impatient and at times aggressive. They may like to be in control and can be slow at making friends. 

Phlegmatic – Introverted, Calm, & Agreeable

The phlegmatic temperament is classified as an introverted type that is easy-going, patient, and quiet. They are often one of the easiest types to get along with as they are so agreeable and go with the flow. They are usually rational, cool-headed and seek harmony and peace. 

Phlegmatic individuals may try to avoid conflict and may be shy, maintaining a fairly quiet life with a small circle of close friends. They are often indecisive and allow others to make decisions for them. 

Melancholic – Introverted, Cautious, & Logical

 The other introverted temperament type is melancholic. Those who fall under this type tend to be thoughtful, analytical, and like to follow rules. They are often task-oriented and may work better alone than in groups. 

Melancholic can be very private and cautious in unfamiliar environments.These individuals may worry often and may experience symptoms of anxiety. 

Can You Change your Temperament?

While your temperament traits may be something you are biologically born with, external factors can definitely influence your personality. Your family, culture, social circle, personal experiences, and willingness to change are all things that can ultimately impact your overall personality. 

Our personalities are incredibly complex and each one of us is completely unique due to our individual combination of temperament traits. It may be helpful to understand your temperament type and how you react to the outside world so you can identify your strengths and weaknesses. This can help you better understand yourself and find areas you may need to improve on to make you happier and more fulfilled. If you find there are things you’d like to improve about yourself, with a bit of effort and support, you may be able to change particular behaviors and your outlook on life which ultimately can affect your temperament and personality.