Temperament: definition

= the predominant type and the individual peculiarity of the course of mental processes.

Temperament is an individual pattern of emotional, physical and attentional responses to sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch, etc., as well as a typical pattern of self-regulation of emotions, behaviour and attention.

Temperament: history

Since the ancient medicine of Hippocrates or Galen, four temperaments were distinguished, which were at the same time mental expressions of the four main humours of the body:

  1. Sanguine from Latin sanguis – blood, strength:
    • Changing fickle mood.
  2. Melancholic, from Greek melas – black and chole – bile:
  3. Choleric from Greek chole – yellow and white bile:
    • Fierce willed, excited emotional person.
  4. Phlegmatic, from Greek phlegma – burn, phlegm:
    • Slow, equally valid or apathetic flow of feeling, cold of will.

Temperament: today

Today, temperament is often regarded as one of seven essential sub-areas of personality: Among them, traits are preferably counted that denote the style of action, among others cheerfulness or impulsiveness. This understanding stems from the factor theories of personality.

According to Gilford’s factor theory, personality consists of a unique structure of traits. He divides these traits into seven modalities:

  1. Morphology: height and weight,
  2. Physiology: pulse, metabolism,
  3. Needs: constant desires for certain states: such as comfort,
  4. Attitudes: constant positions and opinions about social facts,
  5. Interests: constant desires for certain activities,
  6. Aptitudes: the ability to perform certain activities and
  7. Temperament: qualities that characterize the style of behaviour and action.


Dorsch, Friedrich – Hrsg. (1994). Psychologisches Wörterbuch (12. überarb. u. erw. Aufl.). Hans Huber. 

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