DISCLAIMER: This article is made for educational purposes ONLY! It is meant to be a fun way for you to learn a bit about the history of personality psychology. It is NOT meant to assess your personality or make any diagnosis. Only a licensed psychologist can truly assess your personality. So, please don’t take this too seriously!
The year is around 400 BC in Ancient Greece. Hippocrates, who will soon be known as the father of medicine, is thinking deeply about an important question. Why do people behave like they do? What makes us who we are?
Since he was a physician, his first instinct was to look at the body for an answer. And that’s when he got an idea: human behavior is caused by four fluids in the body! He called those fluids “humors”: blood, yellow bile, black bile and phlegm.
A few centuries later, a fellow physician named Galen was intrigued by Hippocrates’ ideas. So he built up on it, and proposed the first categorization of human behavior and temperament. He believed the four fluids affected the person’s behavior, creating four types of temperament: Choleric, Melancholic, Sanguine and Phlegmatic.
Are you interested to hear what ancient doctors would say about your personality? Which of the four temperaments are you? Keep reading and find out!
A choleric temperament corresponds to the fluid of yellow bile.
Choleric people are described as angry, tense and hot headed. They are constantly searching for excitement and good results, which can make them easily annoyed and controlling. They like it when things are going their way, and may seem opinionated to others.
According to some newer research, cholerics can also be highly emotional. A 2022 research paper studied Chinese students and how they adapted to online learning. Researchers found that students with a choleric temperament were sensitive and prone to fluctuating emotions. They seemed to be affected by changes – they had a harder time adapting to online learning environment.
But – those with choleric temperament have their positive sides too! They are result-oriented, active and positive. They are not afraid of any obstacles coming their way! They show great confidence and strive for independence. Other people may be impressed by a cholerics’ quick-thinking and strong will power. Risk taking is something they enjoy, and they can’t stand when things are moving too slow.
Melancholic is the personality of an individual characterized by black bile.
Melancholics are extremely introverted and prefer to have just one or two close friends. They are very thoughtful and considerate, which actually makes people like them. Melancholic personalities are artistic souls! They pour their hearts out into poetry, paintings or music. Even though they’re very talented, they are also perfectionists, and often find flaws within their work and themselves.
As the word melancholy suggests, they can be pretty sensitive. Sometimes they get overwhelmed with the tragedies in the world. Due to this emotional nature, they are prone to depression or anxiety. A paper published in the Journal of Affective Disorders suggests that the melancholic temperament might also play a role in bipolar disorder.
Blood is a sanguine’s main body fluid.
People with a sanguine personality type tend to be lively, optimistic and carefree. They are the first to start a conversation or shake your hand! Their glass is always half-full: they prefer to see the bright side of life and live to the fullest. They have a great sense of humor and love to make others laugh!
But because they love having fun so much, they are typically poor at tolerating boredom and will seek variety and entertainment. Unfortunately, this trait can sometimes negatively affect their romantic and other relationships. They also tend to seek attention and need constant reassurance from others.
This temperament type is very similar to a certain personality trait that is being researched today! Do you know which trait that is? Hint: if you’re not sure, check out this video to find out!
Phlegm is a fluid that influences the behavior of a phlegmatic.
A phlegmatic is best described as a people-person! These people seek close relationships, and are often loyal spouses and loving parents. People with phlegmatic temperaments tend to avoid conflict at all costs! They believe a good life is a peaceful life. They are very much into charity and helping others, and they make great nurses, psychologists or social workers.
Phlegmatics are almost always chill and relaxed – but that’s not always a positive trait. They can often be apathetic and sluggish. They may seem like nothing bothers them much, like they’re not really interested in things that are happening around them.
A 2019 study shows that a person with this temperament can actually be a great driver! Researchers found that phlegmatic drivers have a low heart rate and low arousal level while driving. This means that, in contrast with other temperaments, they rarely get road rage. It’s also been found that phlegmatics have a higher tolerance to relatively simple and monotonous tasks. Because of that, they rarely engage in risky driving behavior.
What do you think – which temperament describes you best?
The personality research doesn’t stop in ancient Greece! Many modern theories have tried to expand upon what Hippocrates and Galen thought of. Would you get the same results on Myer-Briggs personality types, or even Big 5 traits? If you want to know even more about yourself, watch these videos and find out!
Akiskal, H. S., & Akiskal, K. K. (2007). In search of Aristotle: Temperament, human nature, melancholia, creativity and eminence. Journal of Affective Disorders, 100(1–3), 1–6. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2007.04.013
Brown, A. (2022, July 19). 15 Benefits And Traits Of Sanguine Temperament | BetterHelp. BetterHelp. https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/temperament/15-benefits-and-traits-of-sanguine-temperament/
Four Temperaments: Sanguine, Phlegmatic, Choleric, and Melancholic Personality Types. (n.d.). Psychologia. https://psychologia.co/four-temperaments/
Mo, C. Y., Jin, J., & Jin, P. (2022). Relationship Between Teachers’ Teaching Modes and Students’ Temperament and Learning Motivation in Confucian Culture During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Frontiers in Psychology, 13. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.865445
Wen, H., Sze, N. N., Zeng, Q., & Hu, S. (2019). Effect of Music Listening on Physiological Condition, Mental Workload, and Driving Performance with Consideration of Driver Temperament. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(15), 2766. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16152766
Wiki Targeted (Entertainment). (n.d.). Psychology Wiki. https://psychology.fandom.com/wiki/Humorism