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2009-06-25
TEMPERAMENT We categorize people according to their physique


Is there a link between physical characteristics and temperament?

A morose fat man? A jolly scarecrow? These combinations probably seem implausible because we tend to categorize people according to their physique. But is there really a link between physical characteristics and temperament?

Q I have suffered from migraine all my life. My friend tells me that this is caused by my personality, that I worry too much and should try to be happier.

My doctor tells me that the migraines may be caused by a distended blood vessel in my brain. Who do I believe, my friend or my doctor?

A Physiologically, the distension of a blood vessel in the head is indeed one of the more frequent causes of migraine, and ergot, a drug which causes the blood vessels to constrict, is often used to treat it. Yet statistics reveal that people who suffer from migraine tend to have strong guilt feelings and also strong feelings of insecurity, So both your doctor and your friend may be right.

However, each individual is different and treatments that work with one patient will often fail with another, Only systematic investigation of your complaint at a migraine clinic will reveal the appropriate treatment for you, This will take psychological factors into consideration and if necessary you will be given professional help to identify any tendencies in your personality that might contribute to your condition, Trying to be happier should do no harm, but do remember that you are applying a simplistic solution to a complex problem and that it is unlikely to solve your problem on its own,

Q Is it true that twins exhibit the same personality traits?

A Twins who have been brought up together, whether they are identical or fraternal, tend to develop different personality traits, most probably as a way of expressing and establishing their independence, One twin might become more studious, the other more sociable,

What is interesting however is that pairs of monozygotic twins (identical twins, formed from a single ovum) exhibit almost identical personality traits if they are brought up separately, Many studies have been made recently on twins separated at, or shortly after, birth, The results are a strong argument for the idea that many personality traits are indeed inherited,

A person's temperament, or na:'..;ra: disposition, is an aspect of his or her :Je", sonality. Temperament is closely li::-,,;.;:ecl to emotion and in fact determines ho\\~ a" individual will react to his ,'arious emotions and moods.

It has been thought for a long time that temperament has a physical origin, Modern medical research is now begin, ning to unearth some of the facts behind this traditional belief

Ancient beliefs

We have a natural tendency to categorize other people into 'types', For example, many people still believe in a theory developed by the ancient Greeks, that an individual's fate and character are determined by the positions of the stars at

the time of his or her birth. And most of us still speak of people as being jovial

~eaning merry and hearty, qualities thought to derive from the influence of .Jupiter. or Jove, at the time of their birth): saturnine (Saturn was credited ,\'ith endowing people born under its influence with cold, sluggish and gloomy temperaments); or mercurial (quick­witted and volatile, born under Mercury).

This theory of temperament seems to have broadened, rather than diminished, with the growth of scientific knowledge. But however strong a hold astrology may have on the imagination, investigation has shown that there is little conclusive evidence about the correlation between personality characteristics and the position of the stars at the time of birth.

In Classical Greek drama, the actors traditionally wore masks as their faces might have revealed their own temperament and detracted from the characters they were portraying. In this modern performance of the 'Oresteia' by Aeschylus, the convention has been revived - and to great dramatic effect (below).

Another belief concerning the link between the mind and the body origin­ated in ancient India and claimed that the body was governed by certain sub­stances: air, which is cold and dry; bile, which is hot and fluid; and phlegm. which is cold and oily. When these three are in their correct proportions the body is healthy; ill-health is caused by an excess or a lack of fluid or humour.

People's ideas about temperament were governed for centuries by the doctrine of the four humours. The sanguine person was dominated by air and was optimistic and courageous; the phlegmatic individual by water, making him cool and calm. The hot­tempered choleric was ruled by fire and the melancholic by black bile.

This doctrine of humours became the basis for medical diagnosis and treatment for more than a thousand years. For example. a patient suffering from wind might be diagnosed as suffering from an excess of air. An oil mi2-t'_: then be prescribed to counteract the ~air.

As the doctrine spread from India to other civilizations it became broadened and modified. Blood was added as a fo'.,E':::-. humour and the Greeks, who belie\'ed that the earth was composed of four elements - earth, water, fire and air ­linked the two ideas together, formula­ting a theory embracing body and mind.

Theophrastus, a student of Aristotle, postulated that people in whose body phlegm was the predominant humour were governed by the element water, and tended to be cool and calm, or sluggish and apathetic. Those people in whom yellow bile predominated were governed by the element fire and were said to be

TEMPERAMENT

choleric or irascible in temperament. Sanguine people were governed by air and had a predominance of blood, which made them courageous and optimistic, but melancholic people were dominated by a black bile, linked to the earth.

Far-fetched though this theory may seem to us now, it governed people's \'ie\\'s of temperament for salong, and in so \':ide an area of the world, that it has ?ained the respect of modern scientists, 'TIan\ ,):' \':hom feel it might have been an If.stirc:i·:e groping towards the truth.

Recent theories

One of:he ~'eat phvsiologists of the 19th century. Cla'...lQe Bernard. pointed out that altho!.;g!: ::::e heart' \\'hose task it is to pump blood a!'o!.;nd the bodyl is a mechanism entirelv separate from the nervous svsteIY:.. it is r:e\'ertheless subject to nervous control. A strong emotion. such as terror. pro\'oked bv a strong

TEMPERAMENT

Q Can certain temperaments make some people more susceptible to disease than people with different kinds of temperament?

A There is no conclusive evidence on this, although there are some theories that attempt to explain the link between personality and disease. Recent investigations into the immune system, for example, have brought to light the fact that negative emotions - such as feelings of helplessness, lack of love, and despair - produce high levels of certain hormones in the body that have a dampening effect on the immune system, predisposing the individual's body to attacks by viruses.

Q I seem to have more frequent changes of mood than most people, and my mother says that I inherited my moodiness from my father's side of the family. Could she be right?

A Without knowing a great deal about the psychological history of a family it is impossible to say whether a character trait, or indeed a physical symptom or an illness, is inherited. However, there has been much biological research into psychiatry during the past 20 years and one fact that has emerged is that certain personality disorders are inherited.

These findings, however, have been made on the basis of a study of severe mental abnormalities, such as schizophrenia and manic depression, and it is not possible to say with any certainty that foibles of temperament are also inherited. They may be the result of life experiences having had a profound effect on the personality, or of environmental conditioning.

Q Why is it that alcohol can cause changes in mood?

A Alcohol is an 'anti-stimulant'

- it depresses the arousal level in the brain. As the level of cortical arousal differs from one person to another, so the effect of alcohol varies. Extroverts are thought to have an under-active cortex and may be more susceptible to this depressant than introverts, who have high arousal levels.

stimulus, is enough to stop it completely.

Bernard wrote: 'A milder stimulus will stop the heart more briefly, but the function will be resumed with an increase of tempo, fluttering, or palpitations, which will send more blood to the brain, and result in a blush.'

Many physiologists, both before and since, have remarked on the tendency of certain individuals to be altogether 'redder' than others. ·Such people may have a ruddy complexion, or may simply tend to blush more easily and more often than others, and perhaps also have a fiery temper, or be more self-conscious than others. The ancients merely observed and recorded such phenomena. Today's physiologists have the more difficult task of understanding and explaining.

Claude Bernard was the physiologist who first formulated the idea of homeo­stasis - the ability of the body to maintain its equilibrium in the face of external changes, particularly of temperature. This mechanism is governed by the body's autonomic nervous system, under the control of the cortex of the brain.

Our knowledge of how the brain functions is still in its infancy, and anyone attempting to discover the origins of a particular aspect of behaviour will

'Elementary, my dear Watson'- the actors' faces reflect Sherlock Holmes's effortless superiority and the good doctor's credulity. Their strongly contrasting temperaments made for a winning team!

usually find progress blocked at some stage by lack of knowledge. However it is known that whenever parts of the cortex are damaged or removed, dramatic changes in temperament follow.

Damage to the temporal lobe (the front part) of the brain is followed by docile or compulsive behaviour or with abnormal­ly high sexual response in man and other mammals. Similarly, drugs that depress or stimulate the production of chemicals that playa part in transmitting electrical impulses from one part of the brain to the other result, respectively, in sedation or stimulation.

Amphetamines, for example, are stimulants that act by releasing a trans­mitter substance called noradrenalin from nerve cells; they probably prevent other chemicals from being manufac­tured to inactivate adrenalin. It is believed that the tranquillizer reserpine inhibits the release of stimulating substances from the brain's nerve cells.

Therefore, an habitually nervous person may have consistently high levels of stimulants in the brain. Conversely, a person with a tendency to lengthy bouts of depression may have abnormally high levels of chemicals which depress the release of stimulants.

The link between mind and body Although our understanding of the brain may be incomplete, physiologists dis­covered the physical link between mind and body very early on. This is the

hypothalamus, a gland that is located in the cortex of the brain. One of the hypothalamus's major functions is to relay impulses and stimuli between the brain and organs such as the heart and respiratory centres.

It does this by receiving certain of the chemical transmitter substances released by the nerve cells of the brain and, in response to the trigger, releasing hormones. Hormones are formed in the glands by internal secretions and are carried to specific organs of the body which they stimulate into action.

Hormones regulate the body's homeo­stasis as well as mood and behaviour. In man, hormones regulate the body clock ­the heartbeat, breathing and digestion.

The hypothalamus is the body's master gland. The hormones it releases regulate body temperature and the volume of the

blood plasma (the fluid in ,,'hich red and white blood cells float I. Some of these are transmitters which influence the secretion of other hormones from other glands.

In addition, the hypothalamus helps the brain to decide whether a stimulus from outside is pleasant or painful and it also influences sexual behaviour.

Other glands also affect temperament in different ways. For example, the thyroid gland, when over-active, results in over-anxiousness and rapid mood changes, while people with under-active thyroids tend to be slow and apathetic.

These and other examples demonstrate how great a part glandular secretions play in regulating everyday moods, but it is also thought that they may have an even greater role - in the establishment of human character.

Is it growing older that inhibits our willingness to stand out in a crowd?

The singingof'The Red Flag' is traditional at the end of Labour Party conferences, but such public displays seem to suit some temperaments more than others (left).

There is no aspect of behaviour which is not controlled in some way by hormones, Yet the idea that glands actually deter­mine temperament is now thought to be exaggerated. There are serious disorders of temperament in which hormones seem to play no part; manic depressive psychosis and schizophrenia, for instance.

Moreover, although glandular activity does affect patterns of behaviour it is - equally true that there is no activity of a specific gland, or indeed of the entire autonomic nervous system, that cannot be upset by emotion. The example of blushing, in which the blood vessels suddenly dilate, is a good example.

What is certain is that there is some interdependence between emotional states and hormonal activity.

Temperament and physique

Some 50 years ago the scientist E. Kretschmer noticed a striking difference in physique between people with different disturbances.

He realized that while schizophrenic patients tend to be thin and ascetic in appearance, manic-depressive patients are broadly built and short. By means of observation and measurement he succeeded in demonstrating some affinity between illness and physique, and believed that the schizophrenic and the

Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe ­both marvellous tennis players, but how different in temperament! Borg's steely calm seems to make him impervious to the tensions and dramas of the Centre Court and makes him a trul:y formidable opponent. The gifted McEnroe, on the other hand, is renowned for his explosive temper which frequently gets him into trouble with line judf{es and umpires.

manic depressive were two extremes of two common personality types, with predispositions to different psychoses.

Kretschmer's investigations have not withstood the test of time, but perhaps simply because people seem instinctively to classify people they meet in everyday life into types, researchers have con­tinued trying to discover a science of individual differences.

In the 1940s, the American psychol­ogist W. H. Sheldon began a rigorous study not on abnormal human beings, but on people within the normal range of personality types.

'Tradition has it', he pointed out, 'that fat men are jolly and generous, that lean men are dour, that short men are aggressive and that strong men are silent and confident.'

Sheldon began his investigations by photographing 4000 nude men, all of a similar age, in identical poses and in controlled conditions. From comparisons

of measurements taken from five different regions of the body he produced his now familiar theory of physical types.

Endomorphs, he stated, are people who are predominantly round and fat. Meso­morphs, in contrast, have a pre­dominance of bone, muscle and connec­th-e tissue in their body and, in ever. greater contrast, ectomorphs are predominantly fragile and elongated in physique.

During his investigations he inter­\'ie\wd and closely observed each of the ,±GOO men on successive occasions. When he had produced his theory of physique he \,'em on to compare the data from these inten'ie\,'s to see if it was possible to distinguish any correlation between physique and personality.

Endomorphs. he discovered, tend to exhibit a predominance of relaxed. friendly, pleasure-loving traits. They live, as it were, by and for the digestion-

Studies linking body type to temperament maintain that athletic mesomorphs are vigorous, outgoing souls - full of life.

loving food and often disliking exercise ­and needing companionship, even when troubled. He called this personality type viscerotonia.

The mesomorph, in contrast, is the vigorous outdoor type of person, adventurous and dominating, and not only loving, but needing, daily physical activity. This type of person tends to be direct and outgoing, but not necessarily intellectual. He called this type somatotonia.

The ascetic ectomorph tended to be intellectual and introverted, often shy and ill at ease, and often disliked exercise. This type was indifferent to company and food and the social ceremony that accompanies eating in most societies. Sheldon called this type of personality cerebrotonia.

Since the characteristic of each type in Sheldon's scheme could differ from individual to individual - a need for solitude, for example, being characteris­tic of cerebrotonic types, but stronger in some than others - each individual was assessed numerically according to his individual trait. The pattern expressed in the resulting number became the indi­vidual's somatype.

Sheldon's research makes absorbing reading, but it has been criticized as being over-simplified, since it merely considers personality traits and fails to discuss their organization in the per­sonality as a whole.

However as psychology as a science advances, students of behaviour are

Round and chubby endomorphs are supposedly not so keen on physical exercise - what they really relish is their food.

tending more and more towards specialization in 3Uch matters as the investigation of a brain function, or a specific personality trait. In this context, Sheldon's attempt at a 5cientific explora­tion of temperament is an invaluable work which has gi\'en rise to many theories.

Illness and temperament

The idea that people's emotions pre­dispose them to certain types of illness is a belief older than the doctrine of humours, but its investigation is a new branch of science.

Ancient Chinese medicine postulated that the body is an integral mechanism in which inconsistencies contradict each other. Contradictions of mental and emotional activity caused by the influences of society and the natural environment may cause disease, or hasten its development. Emotions as diverse as joy, excitement, happiness, anger, fright and sorrow under most conditions will not cause disease, but under some they can damage normal body functions and cause neurosis or functional disturbances. Also, body­build, bodily reactions and individual differences of age, sex and resistance can predispose people to disease.

This way of thinking about the human body, which has persisted in China until today - though modified by new know-

Ectomorphs have a fragile frame and in theory tend to be introverted, intellectual, tense and rather ill at ease in company.

ledge and new theories - has begun to influence modern Western medicine. It has given rise to theories correlating personality and disease, and has led to new concepts of psychosomatic medicine.

One theory, for example, suggests that people with certain personality traits may be susceptible to certain diseases; such people are classified into 'biotypes'. Thus, the heart attack biotype is an achiever and competitor. His or her body is constantly prepared for 'fight or flight' and he may, as a result, have higher levels of hormones such as adrenalin and noradrenalin in the bloodstream. These mobilize fats and cholesterol from body tissues into the bloodstream, raise the blood pressure and increase the ability of the blood to clot. Excess cholesterol in the arteries soon leads to a heart attack.

Other biotypes include people sus­ceptible to angina, ulcers or rheumatism. This branch of medicine does offer one solution: gradually to change the personality and the unconscious tenden­cies by changing the patient's life-style.

Psycho-physiologists (those who study the relationship between mind and body) investigate individual differences and attempt to bring the branches together. These medical scientists are, in effect, trying to establish a method of measuring individual responses to emotional situations, cyclic events, stress and drugs, in order to discover the truth behind the observations of individual differences and the causes of temperament.  

 

Taken from The Marshall Cavendish A  to Z GUIDE IN WEEKLY PARTS,  DOCTOR’S ANSWERS: PART 85, TEMPERAMENT, Page 23240 to 2345.

 

(Sorry. Due to the urgency of education on this site, spelling will be corrected at a later stage….All photos in the  script have been left out)

 

. But is there really a link between physical characteristics and temperament?

Q I have suffered from migraine all my life. My friend tells me that this is caused by my personality, that I worry too much and should try to be happier.

My doctor tells me that the migraines may be caused by a distended blood vessel in my brain. Who do I believe, my friend or my doctor?

A Physiologically, the distension of a blood vessel in the head is indeed one of the more frequent causes of migraine, and ergot, a drug which causes the blood vessels to constrict, is often used to treat it. Yet statistics reveal that people who suffer from migraine tend to have strong guilt feelings and also strong feelings of insecurity, So both your doctor and your friend may be right.

However, each individual is different and treatments that work with one patient will often fail with another, Only systematic investigation of your complaint at a migraine clinic will reveal the appropriate treatment for you, This will take psychological factors into consideration and if necessary you will be given professional help to identify any tendencies in your personality that might contribute to your condition, Trying to be happier should do no harm, but do remember that you are applying a simplistic solution to a complex problem and that it is unlikely to solve your problem on its own,

Q Is it true that twins exhibit the same personality traits?

A Twins who have been brought up together, whether they are identical or fraternal, tend to develop different personality traits, most probably as a way of expressing and establishing their independence, One twin might become more studious, the other more sociable,

What is interesting however is that pairs of monozygotic twins (identical twins, formed from a single ovum) exhibit almost identical personality traits if they are brought up separately, Many studies have been made recently on twins separated at, or shortly after, birth, The results are a strong argument for the idea that many personality traits are indeed inherited,

A person's temperament, or na:'..;ra: disposition, is an aspect of his or her :Je", sonality. Temperament is closely li::-,,;.;:ecl to emotion and in fact determines ho\\~ a" individual will react to his ,'arious emotions and moods.

It has been thought for a long time that temperament has a physical origin, Modern medical research is now begin, ning to unearth some of the facts behind this traditional belief

Ancient beliefs

We have a natural tendency to categorize other people into 'types', For example, many people still believe in a theory developed by the ancient Greeks, that an individual's fate and character are determined by the positions of the stars at

the time of his or her birth. And most of us still speak of people as being jovial

~eaning merry and hearty, qualities thought to derive from the influence of .Jupiter. or Jove, at the time of their birth): saturnine (Saturn was credited ,\'ith endowing people born under its influence with cold, sluggish and gloomy temperaments); or mercurial (quick­witted and volatile, born under Mercury).

This theory of temperament seems to have broadened, rather than diminished, with the growth of scientific knowledge. But however strong a hold astrology may have on the imagination, investigation has shown that there is little conclusive evidence about the correlation between personality characteristics and the position of the stars at the time of birth.

In Classical Greek drama, the actors traditionally wore masks as their faces might have revealed their own temperament and detracted from the characters they were portraying. In this modern performance of the 'Oresteia' by Aeschylus, the convention has been revived - and to great dramatic effect (below).

Another belief concerning the link between the mind and the body origin­ated in ancient India and claimed that the body was governed by certain sub­stances: air, which is cold and dry; bile, which is hot and fluid; and phlegm. which is cold and oily. When these three are in their correct proportions the body is healthy; ill-health is caused by an excess or a lack of fluid or humour.

People's ideas about temperament were governed for centuries by the doctrine of the four humours. The sanguine person was dominated by air and was optimistic and courageous; the phlegmatic individual by water, making him cool and calm. The hot­tempered choleric was ruled by fire and the melancholic by black bile.

This doctrine of humours became the basis for medical diagnosis and treatment for more than a thousand years. For example. a patient suffering from wind might be diagnosed as suffering from an excess of air. An oil mi2-t'_: then be prescribed to counteract the ~air.

As the doctrine spread from India to other civilizations it became broadened and modified. Blood was added as a fo'.,E':::-. humour and the Greeks, who belie\'ed that the earth was composed of four elements - earth, water, fire and air ­linked the two ideas together, formula­ting a theory embracing body and mind.

Theophrastus, a student of Aristotle, postulated that people in whose body phlegm was the predominant humour were governed by the element water, and tended to be cool and calm, or sluggish and apathetic. Those people in whom yellow bile predominated were governed by the element fire and were said to be

TEMPERAMENT

choleric or irascible in temperament. Sanguine people were governed by air and had a predominance of blood, which made them courageous and optimistic, but melancholic people were dominated by a black bile, linked to the earth.

Far-fetched though this theory may seem to us now, it governed people's \'ie\\'s of temperament for salong, and in so \':ide an area of the world, that it has ?ained the respect of modern scientists, 'TIan\ ,):' \':hom feel it might have been an If.stirc:i·:e groping towards the truth.

Recent theories

One of:he ~'eat phvsiologists of the 19th century. Cla'...lQe Bernard. pointed out that altho!.;g!: ::::e heart' \\'hose task it is to pump blood a!'o!.;nd the bodyl is a mechanism entirelv separate from the nervous svsteIY:.. it is r:e\'ertheless subject to nervous control. A strong emotion. such as terror. pro\'oked bv a strong

TEMPERAMENT

Q Can certain temperaments make some people more susceptible to disease than people with different kinds of temperament?

A There is no conclusive evidence on this, although there are some theories that attempt to explain the link between personality and disease. Recent investigations into the immune system, for example, have brought to light the fact that negative emotions - such as feelings of helplessness, lack of love, and despair - produce high levels of certain hormones in the body that have a dampening effect on the immune system, predisposing the individual's body to attacks by viruses.

Q I seem to have more frequent changes of mood than most people, and my mother says that I inherited my moodiness from my father's side of the family. Could she be right?

A Without knowing a great deal about the psychological history of a family it is impossible to say whether a character trait, or indeed a physical symptom or an illness, is inherited. However, there has been much biological research into psychiatry during the past 20 years and one fact that has emerged is that certain personality disorders are inherited.

These findings, however, have been made on the basis of a study of severe mental abnormalities, such as schizophrenia and manic depression, and it is not possible to say with any certainty that foibles of temperament are also inherited. They may be the result of life experiences having had a profound effect on the personality, or of environmental conditioning.

Q Why is it that alcohol can cause changes in mood?

A Alcohol is an 'anti-stimulant'

- it depresses the arousal level in the brain. As the level of cortical arousal differs from one person to another, so the effect of alcohol varies. Extroverts are thought to have an under-active cortex and may be more susceptible to this depressant than introverts, who have high arousal levels.

stimulus, is enough to stop it completely.

Bernard wrote: 'A milder stimulus will stop the heart more briefly, but the function will be resumed with an increase of tempo, fluttering, or palpitations, which will send more blood to the brain, and result in a blush.'

Many physiologists, both before and since, have remarked on the tendency of certain individuals to be altogether 'redder' than others. ·Such people may have a ruddy complexion, or may simply tend to blush more easily and more often than others, and perhaps also have a fiery temper, or be more self-conscious than others. The ancients merely observed and recorded such phenomena. Today's physiologists have the more difficult task of understanding and explaining.

Claude Bernard was the physiologist who first formulated the idea of homeo­stasis - the ability of the body to maintain its equilibrium in the face of external changes, particularly of temperature. This mechanism is governed by the body's autonomic nervous system, under the control of the cortex of the brain.

Our knowledge of how the brain functions is still in its infancy, and anyone attempting to discover the origins of a particular aspect of behaviour will

'Elementary, my dear Watson'- the actors' faces reflect Sherlock Holmes's effortless superiority and the good doctor's credulity. Their strongly contrasting temperaments made for a winning team!

usually find progress blocked at some stage by lack of knowledge. However it is known that whenever parts of the cortex are damaged or removed, dramatic changes in temperament follow.

Damage to the temporal lobe (the front part) of the brain is followed by docile or compulsive behaviour or with abnormal­ly high sexual response in man and other mammals. Similarly, drugs that depress or stimulate the production of chemicals that playa part in transmitting electrical impulses from one part of the brain to the other result, respectively, in sedation or stimulation.

Amphetamines, for example, are stimulants that act by releasing a trans­mitter substance called noradrenalin from nerve cells; they probably prevent other chemicals from being manufac­tured to inactivate adrenalin. It is believed that the tranquillizer reserpine inhibits the release of stimulating substances from the brain's nerve cells.

Therefore, an habitually nervous person may have consistently high levels of stimulants in the brain. Conversely, a person with a tendency to lengthy bouts of depression may have abnormally high levels of chemicals which depress the release of stimulants.

The link between mind and body Although our understanding of the brain may be incomplete, physiologists dis­covered the physical link between mind and body very early on. This is the

hypothalamus, a gland that is located in the cortex of the brain. One of the hypothalamus's major functions is to relay impulses and stimuli between the brain and organs such as the heart and respiratory centres.

It does this by receiving certain of the chemical transmitter substances released by the nerve cells of the brain and, in response to the trigger, releasing hormones. Hormones are formed in the glands by internal secretions and are carried to specific organs of the body which they stimulate into action.

Hormones regulate the body's homeo­stasis as well as mood and behaviour. In man, hormones regulate the body clock ­the heartbeat, breathing and digestion.

The hypothalamus is the body's master gland. The hormones it releases regulate body temperature and the volume of the

blood plasma (the fluid in ,,'hich red and white blood cells float I. Some of these are transmitters which influence the secretion of other hormones from other glands.

In addition, the hypothalamus helps the brain to decide whether a stimulus from outside is pleasant or painful and it also influences sexual behaviour.

Other glands also affect temperament in different ways. For example, the thyroid gland, when over-active, results in over-anxiousness and rapid mood changes, while people with under-active thyroids tend to be slow and apathetic.

These and other examples demonstrate how great a part glandular secretions play in regulating everyday moods, but it is also thought that they may have an even greater role - in the establishment of human character.

Is it growing older that inhibits our willingness to stand out in a crowd?

The singingof'The Red Flag' is traditional at the end of Labour Party conferences, but such public displays seem to suit some temperaments more than others (left).

There is no aspect of behaviour which is not controlled in some way by hormones, Yet the idea that glands actually deter­mine temperament is now thought to be exaggerated. There are serious disorders of temperament in which hormones seem to play no part; manic depressive psychosis and schizophrenia, for instance.

Moreover, although glandular activity does affect patterns of behaviour it is - equally true that there is no activity of a specific gland, or indeed of the entire autonomic nervous system, that cannot be upset by emotion. The example of blushing, in which the blood vessels suddenly dilate, is a good example.

What is certain is that there is some interdependence between emotional states and hormonal activity.

Temperament and physique

Some 50 years ago the scientist E. Kretschmer noticed a striking difference in physique between people with different disturbances.

He realized that while schizophrenic patients tend to be thin and ascetic in appearance, manic-depressive patients are broadly built and short. By means of observation and measurement he succeeded in demonstrating some affinity between illness and physique, and believed that the schizophrenic and the

Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe ­both marvellous tennis players, but how different in temperament! Borg's steely calm seems to make him impervious to the tensions and dramas of the Centre Court and makes him a trul:y formidable opponent. The gifted McEnroe, on the other hand, is renowned for his explosive temper which frequently gets him into trouble with line judf{es and umpires.

manic depressive were two extremes of two common personality types, with predispositions to different psychoses.

Kretschmer's investigations have not withstood the test of time, but perhaps simply because people seem instinctively to classify people they meet in everyday life into types, researchers have con­tinued trying to discover a science of individual differences.

In the 1940s, the American psychol­ogist W. H. Sheldon began a rigorous study not on abnormal human beings, but on people within the normal range of personality types.

'Tradition has it', he pointed out, 'that fat men are jolly and generous, that lean men are dour, that short men are aggressive and that strong men are silent and confident.'

Sheldon began his investigations by photographing 4000 nude men, all of a similar age, in identical poses and in controlled conditions. From comparisons

of measurements taken from five different regions of the body he produced his now familiar theory of physical types.

Endomorphs, he stated, are people who are predominantly round and fat. Meso­morphs, in contrast, have a pre­dominance of bone, muscle and connec­th-e tissue in their body and, in ever. greater contrast, ectomorphs are predominantly fragile and elongated in physique.

During his investigations he inter­\'ie\wd and closely observed each of the ,±GOO men on successive occasions. When he had produced his theory of physique he \,'em on to compare the data from these inten'ie\,'s to see if it was possible to distinguish any correlation between physique and personality.

Endomorphs. he discovered, tend to exhibit a predominance of relaxed. friendly, pleasure-loving traits. They live, as it were, by and for the digestion-

Studies linking body type to temperament maintain that athletic mesomorphs are vigorous, outgoing souls - full of life.

loving food and often disliking exercise ­and needing companionship, even when troubled. He called this personality type viscerotonia.

The mesomorph, in contrast, is the vigorous outdoor type of person, adventurous and dominating, and not only loving, but needing, daily physical activity. This type of person tends to be direct and outgoing, but not necessarily intellectual. He called this type somatotonia.

The ascetic ectomorph tended to be intellectual and introverted, often shy and ill at ease, and often disliked exercise. This type was indifferent to company and food and the social ceremony that accompanies eating in most societies. Sheldon called this type of personality cerebrotonia.

Since the characteristic of each type in Sheldon's scheme could differ from individual to individual - a need for solitude, for example, being characteris­tic of cerebrotonic types, but stronger in some than others - each individual was assessed numerically according to his individual trait. The pattern expressed in the resulting number became the indi­vidual's somatype.

Sheldon's research makes absorbing reading, but it has been criticized as being over-simplified, since it merely considers personality traits and fails to discuss their organization in the per­sonality as a whole.

However as psychology as a science advances, students of behaviour are

Round and chubby endomorphs are supposedly not so keen on physical exercise - what they really relish is their food.

tending more and more towards specialization in 3Uch matters as the investigation of a brain function, or a specific personality trait. In this context, Sheldon's attempt at a 5cientific explora­tion of temperament is an invaluable work which has gi\'en rise to many theories.

Illness and temperament

The idea that people's emotions pre­dispose them to certain types of illness is a belief older than the doctrine of humours, but its investigation is a new branch of science.

Ancient Chinese medicine postulated that the body is an integral mechanism in which inconsistencies contradict each other. Contradictions of mental and emotional activity caused by the influences of society and the natural environment may cause disease, or hasten its development. Emotions as diverse as joy, excitement, happiness, anger, fright and sorrow under most conditions will not cause disease, but under some they can damage normal body functions and cause neurosis or functional disturbances. Also, body­build, bodily reactions and individual differences of age, sex and resistance can predispose people to disease.

This way of thinking about the human body, which has persisted in China until today - though modified by new know-

Ectomorphs have a fragile frame and in theory tend to be introverted, intellectual, tense and rather ill at ease in company.

ledge and new theories - has begun to influence modern Western medicine. It has given rise to theories correlating personality and disease, and has led to new concepts of psychosomatic medicine.

One theory, for example, suggests that people with certain personality traits may be susceptible to certain diseases; such people are classified into 'biotypes'. Thus, the heart attack biotype is an achiever and competitor. His or her body is constantly prepared for 'fight or flight' and he may, as a result, have higher levels of hormones such as adrenalin and noradrenalin in the bloodstream. These mobilize fats and cholesterol from body tissues into the bloodstream, raise the blood pressure and increase the ability of the blood to clot. Excess cholesterol in the arteries soon leads to a heart attack.

Other biotypes include people sus­ceptible to angina, ulcers or rheumatism. This branch of medicine does offer one solution: gradually to change the personality and the unconscious tenden­cies by changing the patient's life-style.

Psycho-physiologists (those who study the relationship between mind and body) investigate individual differences and attempt to bring the branches together. These medical scientists are, in effect, trying to establish a method of measuring individual responses to emotional situations, cyclic events, stress and drugs, in order to discover the truth behind the observations of individual differences and the causes of temperament.  

 

Taken from The Marshall Cavendish A  to Z GUIDE IN WEEKLY PARTS,  DOCTOR’S ANSWERS: PART 85, TEMPERAMENT, Page 23240 to 2345.

 

(Sorry. Due to the urgency of education on this site, spelling will be corrected at a later stage….All photos in the  script have been left out)

 


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