Temperament theory

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Temperament theory is an ancient model of personality types that has been adopted into the MBTI-based 16 types theory, dividing it into some sub-groups, consisting of different two or three letter combinations.


Temperament theory began with two different models dividing humanity into four categories. Plato had "Four kinds of men", while Hippocrates, and then Galen matched temperament to four body fluids, called "humors", which originally were believed to influence man's dispositions.

They were also tied to the ancient "four elements" as such:

Sanguine: blood (air) — hot and moist
Choleric: bile (fire) — hot and dry
Melancholic: "[black] bile" (earth) — cold and dry
Phlegmatic: phlegm (water) — cold and moist

The typical behaviors of the temperaments would be factored as such:

The sanguine temperament showed quick, impulsive and relatively brief reactions. (i.e. short delay, short sustain)
The choleric temperament manifested a short response time-delay, but the response was sustained for a relatively long time.
The melancholic temperament exhibited a long response time-delay, and the response was sustained at length, if not, seemingly, permanently.
The Phlegmatic was characterized by a longer response-delay but the response was also short-lived.
(Evidence-based Research in Complementary and Alternative Medicine I: History Francesco Chiappelli, Paolo Prolo and Olivia S. Cajulis)

The two factors are what basically would become known as classic "extroversion" (short delay; expressive) vs "introversion" (long delay; less expressive); and "people" vs. "task" focus. (Those with a short sustain will need to receive new positive feelings more frequently, and thus "respond" to people more, while those with a long sustain will tend to hold onto negative emotions longer, and thus appear to not "respond" to people as much, but will end up focused on impersonal things such as "tasks").

Temperament enters type: The Keirsey groupings

In type theory, the most popular version of this is the four “temperaments” of David Keirsey: SP, SJ, NT and NF. This grouping is “asymmetrical”, because it does not map to the same dichotomies across the board. Notice, for Sensors, temperament is determined by J/P, while for iNtuitors, it is T/F (This would be formulated S + J/P; N + T/F).

Some understandably think this arrangement is strange, but the reason for this is that he derived his temperaments from a source external to the MBTI framework; namely both the old Hippocratic/Galenic "four humors" temperaments and Plato's "four kinds of men", which became the basis of Keirsey's temperaments. Their names (Guardian, Artisan, Idealist, Rational) are what Keirsey settled on (intitially, they were taken from Greek gods: Epimethean, Dionysian, Apollonian and Promethean).

Plato is cited by Keirsey as making an "observant vs imaginative" distinction; adding a perceptive factor to the theory. Immanuel Kant also added a form of perception: Beauty vs. the Sublime. Beauty actually paired together Sanguine and Melancholic (high perception of beauty), which in the old matrix were diametric opposites. Likewise, Phlegmatic and Choleric were now both "low". You can see where this is sort of an early forerunner to the Sensing vs iNtuition scale.
Eric Adickes, Ernst Kretschmer and Eduard Spränger introduced new factors in four type systems. Adickes had "heteronomous" types Innovatives and Traditionalists, and the "autonomous" were Agnostics and Dogmatics. Kretschmer developed his four “Character Styles”: depressive, hypomanic, anesthetic and hyperesthetic, which made up the two categories "cyclothymes" and "schizothymes" .

It was these types Keirsey utilized and mapped to the MBTI’s 16 types, across its Sensing/iNtuition dichotomy factored by a new scale he called “Cooperative” vs. “Utilitarian”. (SJ’s and NF’s are “cooperative”; meaning “do what’s right”, and SP’s and NT’s are “utilitarian” or “pragmatic”, meaning “do what works”.
While the dichotomies introduced by Adickes and Kretschmer would correspond to S/N, Spränger's division of his four types ["Social": Theoretics and Aesthetics; "Political": Religious and Economical] would correspond to Cooperative/Pragmatic; Keirsey, Please Understand Me II, p 25, 340).

It should be mentioned that these temperaments do not use the I/E factor, as classic temperament did. They are actually "blind" to it; as each temperament consists of an even number of I and E types. He mapped them to the classic temperaments through those intermediate systems and by general behaviors, leading to the conclusion that the SJ was Melancholic, the SP, Sanguine, the NF, Choleric, and the NT, Phlegmatic. (Other interpreters using his theory assign these differently).

While though, he uses the same four dichotomy codes and 16 types as MBTI, his theory is still rather different, and focuses on the temperaments. The types are really considered just "variants" of the temperaments. He even rejected Jung’s functions by the time of his second book, Please Understand Me II, and redesignated the dichotomies as standalone factors of “Expressive vs. Reserved” (E/I), “Concrete vs. Abstract” (S/N), “Tough-minded vs. Friendly”, and “Scheduling vs. Probing” (J/P).

There are disputes as to whether this combination of temperament with Jung's cognitive theory is valid, and whether they can work together. Jung rejected temperament models, and some analysts trying to be true to his theory follow suit. They see temperament as behavioral, while the cognitive perspective goes beneath that to our inner drives.

Interaction Styles

Linda Berens adopted Keirsey's theory (pairing it back with the cognitive functions in the process), and adding another version of the temperaments, the Interaction Styles. These now resemble more the original Galenic model, mapping to I/E and "directing/informing", which matches the old "task vs people" factor of classic temperament.

This grouping is even more asymmetrical, factoring as E/I + S + T/F and E/I + N + J/P; yielding the groups:
"Get Things Going" (ESF/ENP; extraverted, informing; Sanguine)
"In Charge" (EST/ENJ; extraverted, directing; Choleric)
"Chart the Course" (IST/INJ; introverted, directing; Melancholic)
"Behind the Scenes" (ISF/INP; inroverted, informing; Phlegmatic)

These actually stemmed from the eight groups Keirsey had outlined in Portraits of Temperament (1987) consisting of the last three letters of type (STJ, SFJ, STP, SFP, NTJ, NTP, NFJ, NFP). Keirsey had introduced the "role-informative" and "role-directive" factors here, and found that it divided his temperaments into these eight groups. Factoring in I/E, as Berens would later do, yielded the four Interaction Styles. (In Keirsey's last two books Brains and Careers (2008) and Personology (2010), he would finally adopt the groups, calling them simply "roles of interaction").

To Keirsey's temperament matrix, Berens also added another factor of "structure vs motive", which ties together opposites. SJ and NT "focus on structure") and NF and SP ("focus on motive"). In “Essential Qualities of the Personality Patterns”, she states: “The Rational and Guardian patterns are characterized by a focus on structure, order, and organization to gain a measure of control over life's problems and irregularities rather than be at the mercy of random forces. The Idealist and Artisan patterns are characterized by a focus on motives and why people do things in order to work with the people they are communicating with rather than trying to force them into a preconceived structure”. Keirsey would imply these himself in Personology, under the terms "annoying" and "contagious".

She also did likewise for the Interaction Styles: "Attention: Focus and Interest (Control/Movement)", which pairs the diametric opposite styles. In-Charge and Behind-the-Scenes have in common "Control": Focus on control over the outcome, and Chart-the-Course and Get-Things-Going have in common "Movement": Focus on movement toward the goal. In 2008, Berens released version 2.0 of Understanding Yourself and Others: An Introduction to Interaction Styles, in which she renamed this dimension into Process/Outcome. In-Charge and Behind-the-Scenes focus on the outcome of tasks (which as already implicit in the "control" definition), while Get-Things-Going and Chart-the-Course focus on the process (hence, the act of movement toward the goal).

Multiple "lenses" of personality

Using these models together gives us different ways of looking at some of the same things, and can help put more specific contexts to some behavior traits that can be confusing to sort through. For instance, "people vs task focus" might be associated in people's minds with either I/E or T/F, as extraverts are commonly assumed to be more "outgoing" and "gregarious", introverts less so, but then Feeling also is more "person"-related, while Thinking is more "impersonal". But I/E is ultimately about how much stimulation a person needs from the outside world (need of more; will go outside himself to get it; need of less; will withdraw into himself more). T/F figures in both Keirsey temperaments (for N's; NF or NT) and Interaction Styles (for S's: SF or ST). While ST vs SF do correpond to "people/task" through the "informing/directing" scale, NF vs NT are an example of "motive" vs "structure", which also denotes a people vs task focus. So across the board, Feeling will correspond to a people focus, in one model or another, while Thinking will focus on task more. (And J/P will also figure in people vs task, in an opposite fashion from T/F. For N's it's connected with Interaction Style: NP or NJ, and for S's, with temperament: SP or SJ. This will fit P being more "open" and thus "responsive" to people, while J is more "closed", or "planful", and thus more task focused).

So blends of personality traits across these different models should be taken into consideration when searching or analyzing one's type.

Temperament and Interaction Style
Temperaments and Interaction Styles in the MBTI.

Other sub groupings of the types have been called "temperaments". Myers and Briggs had suggested the symmetrical function pair groupings: S/N + T/F [SF, ST, NF, NT] as the “temperaments”. E/I + J/P (EJ, IJ, EP, IP) were called by another writer, "socibility temperaments".

Brief descriptions of Keirsey's temperaments (and the "intelligence variants" they are divided into)

  • Artisans are concrete and adaptable. Seeking stimulation and virtuosity, they are concerned with making an impact. Their greatest strength is tactics. They excel at troubleshooting, agility, and the manipulation of tools, instruments, and equipment. (Montgomery, Stephen People Patterns: A Modern Guide to the Four Temperaments page=20, Archer Publications, 2002) The two roles are as follows:
  • Operators are the directive (proactive) Artisans. Their most developed intelligence operation is expediting. The attentive Crafters and the expressive Promoters are the two role variants.
  • Entertainers are the informative (reactive) Artisans. Their most developed intelligence operation is improvising. The attentive Composers and the expressive Performers are the two role variants.
  • Guardians are concrete and organized (scheduled). Seeking security and belonging, they are concerned with responsibility and duty. Their greatest strength is logistics. They excel at organizing, facilitating, checking, and supporting. The two roles are as follows:
  • Administrators are the directive (proactive) Guardians. Their most developed intelligence operation is regulating. The attentive Inspectors and the expressive Supervisors are the two role variants.
  • Conservators are the informative (reactive) Guardians. Their most developed intelligence operation is supporting. The attentive Protectors and the expressive Providers are the two role variants.
  • Idealists are abstract and compassionate. Seeking meaning and significance, they are concerned with personal growth and finding their own unique identity. Their greatest strength is diplomacy. They excel at clarifying, individualizing, unifying, and inspiring. The two roles are as follows:
  • Mentors are the directive (proactive) Idealists. Their most developed intelligence operation is developing. The attentive Counselors and the expressive Teachers are the two role variants.
  • Advocates are the informative (reactive) Idealists. Their most developed intelligence operation is mediating. The attentive Healers and the expressive Champions are the two role variants.
  • Rationals are abstract and objective. Seeking mastery and self-control, they are concerned with their own knowledge and competence. Their greatest strength is strategy. They excel in any kind of logical investigation such as engineering, conceptualizing, theorizing, and coordinating. The two roles are as follows:
  • Coordinators are the directive (proactive) Rationals. Their most developed intelligence operation is arranging. The attentive Masterminds and the expressive Fieldmarshals are the two role variants.
  • Engineers are the informative (reactive) Rationals. Their most developed intelligence operation is constructing. The attentive Architects and the expressive Inventors are the two role variants.

Here is how the factors break down:

Temperament Role Role Variant
Attentive ?
Guardian (SJ)
Conservator (SFJ)
Provider (ESFJ): Supplying
Protector (ISFJ): Securing
Administrator (STJ)
Supervisor (ESTJ): Enforcing
Inspector (ISTJ): Certifying
Artisan (SP)
Entertainer (SFP)
Performer (ESFP): Demonstrating
Composer (ISFP): Synthesizing
Operator (STP)
Promoter (ESTP): Persuading
Crafter (ISTP): Instrumenting
Idealist (NF)
Advocate (NFP)
Champion (ENFP): Motivating
Healer (INFP): Conciliating
Mentor (NFJ)
Teacher (ENFJ): Educating
Counselor (INFJ): Guiding
Rational (NT)
Engineer (NTP)
Inventor (ENTP): Devising
Architect (INTP): Designing
Coordinator (NTJ)
Fieldmarshal (ENTJ): Mobilizing
Mastermind (INTJ): Entailing

Adapted from:
"Personality Matrix: MBTI and the 16 Types and Cognitive Functions"
Detailed primer on classic temperaments and how they most likely correspond with type:
"Personality Matrix: Temperament Theory"