Friday, September 5, 2014

William Sheldon's Temperament Types

Sheldon’s Temperaments and Traits

While the Sheldon’s research started from body type’s classification, that was not his ultimate goal. He wanted to help resolve a more critical question of whether our body type was connected with the way we acted. In short, he wanted to explore the link between body and temperament.

Temperament explores how people eat and sleep, laugh and snore, speak and walk. Temperament is body type in action. Sheldon's procedure in looking for the basic components of temperament was much like the one he used in discovering the body type components. He interviewed in depth several hundred people and tried to find traits which would describe the basic elements of their behavior. He found there were three basic components which he called viscerotonia, somatotonia and cerebrotonia, and eventually named endotonia, mesotonia and ectotonia.

Endotonia is seen in the love of relaxation, comfort, food and people.

Mesotonia is centered on assertiveness and a love of action.

Ectotonia focuses on privacy, restraint and a highly developed self-awareness.

Sheldon devised a way of numerically rating the strength of each area based on a check-list of 60 characteristics that describe the basic components. The 7-1-1 was the extreme endotonic, the 1-7-1 the extreme mesotonic and the 1-1-7 the extreme ectotonic. He found a strong correspondence between the endomorphic body type and the endotonic temperament, the mesomorphic body type and the mesotonic temperament, and the ectomorphic body type and the ectotonic temperament. Just as in our body type we have all three elements, so, too, with our temperament. A look at the three extremes in temperament will give us some idea of what these components are like.

Temperament Scale Evaluation

Sheldon evaluated and reevaluated each of the research participants through the 60 questions from the questionnaire below to find exact temperament index of the person. You may perform the self-test and define your own type based on the number of fitting descriptions.

I. Viscerotonia
II. Somatotonia
III. Cerebrotonia
1. Relaxation in Posture and Movement
1. Assertiveness of Posture and Movement
1. Restraint in Posture and Movement, Tightness
2. Love of Physical Comfort
2. Love of Physical Adventure
2. Physiological Over-response
3. Slow Reaction
3. The Energetic Characteristic
3. Overly Fast Reactions
4. Love of Eating
4. Need and Enjoyment of Exercise
4. Love of Privacy
5. Socialization of Eating
5. Love of Dominating, Lust for Power
5. Mental Overintensity, Hyperattentionality, Apprehensiveness
6. Pleasure in Digestion
6. Love of Risk and Chance
6. Secretiveness of Feeling, Emotional Restraint
7. Love of Polite Ceremony
7. Bold Directness of Manner
7. Self-Conscious Motility of the Eyes and Face
8. Sociophilia
8. Physical Courage for Combat
8. Sociophobia
9. Indiscriminate Aniability
9. Competitive Aggressiveness
9. Inhibited Social Address
10. Greed for Affection and Approval
10. Psychological Callousness
10. Resistance to Habit, and Poor Routinizing
11. Orientation to People
11. Claustrophobia
11. Agoraphobia
12. Evenness of Emotional Flow
12. Ruthlessness, Freedom from Squeamishness
12. Unpredictability of Attitude
13. Tolerance
13. The Unrestrained Voice
13. Vocal Restraint, and General Restraint of Noise
14. Complacency
14. Spartan Indifference to Pain
14. Hypersensitivity to Pain
15. Deep Sleep
15. General Noisiness
15. Poor Sleep Habits, Chronic Fatigue
16. The Untempered Characteristic
16. Overmaturity of Appearance
16. Youthful Intentness of Manner and Appearance
17. Smooth, Easy Communication of Feeling, Extraversion of Viscerotonia
17. Horizontal Mental Cleavage, Extraversion of Somatotonia
17. Vertical Mental Cleavage, Introversion
18. Relaxation and Sociophilia under Alcohol
18. Assertiveness and Aggression under Alcohol
18. Resistance to Alcohol, and to Other Depressant Drugs
19. Need of People When Troubled
19. Need of Action When Troubled
19. Need of Solitude When Troubled
20. Orientation Toward Childhood and Family Relationships
20. Orientation Toward Goals and Activities of Youth
20. Orientation Toward the Later Periods 


The main idea of the Sheldon’s research was to clarify the constitutional or biological side of the nature and nurture question. But there is no nurture without a nature to nurture. There is no nature that is not being continually influenced by a particular environment. Even with Sheldon's careful evaluation of both somatotype and temperament, most of the 200 cases he described differ in these two classifications, and furthermore, even people of the same somatotype and roughly the same temperament index have widely different personalities when it comes to achievement.

Sheldon describes, for example, 8 men of the 2-3-5 somatotype, and 'gives their temperament indexes as 1-3-7, 2-4-4, 1-5-4, 1-4-5, 2-3-6, 3-4-4, 3-3-6, 3-3-5. These evaluations of temperament fall in a circular range around the position of the somatotype that well illustrates Sheldon's views on the question of heredity and environment.

There is a natural given represented by the somatotype, but even on the level of physiologically conditioned behavior, that is, at Sheldon's temperament level, there is a large variety of different paths of development that can be followed due to different life circumstances, and an even wider range of adjustment and adaptation. For example, one of the 2-3-5s, temperamentally a 2-4-4, and with a very high dysplasia, is one of the most promising men at the university.

The next case, temperamentally a 1-5-4, reverses his morphological predominance. In other words, he appears to have drifted from his biological moorings and created a personality at odds with his natural predispositions. He has become highly aggressive and violently disliked. And Sheldon has doubts about how well he will fare in the future, and classifies him "normal through effort".

Sheldon's Motives

The original work of Sheldon was used to characterize criminals and he found that most of the criminals were mesomorphs because violent crimes were usually committed by big strong men. It makes sense because according to Sheldon's theory, people with a muscular and attractive body tend to be competitive and want power and dominance. This also proved that mesomorphic people are usually criminal in nature.


Sheldon's work was heavily burdened by his racist, anti-Semitic and sexist views. There is evidence that different physiques carry cultural stereotypes. For example, one study found that endomorphs are likely to be perceived as slow, sloppy, and lazy. Mesomorphs, in contrast, are typically stereotyped as popular and hardworking, whereas ectomorphs are often viewed as intelligent but fearful and usually take part in long distance sports, such as marathon running. Stereotypes of mesomorphs are generally much more favorable than those of endomorphs. Stereotypes of ectomorphs are somewhat mixed. Sheldon's ideas that body type was an indicator of temperament, moral character or potential while popular in an atmosphere accepting of the theories of eugenics were soon widely discredited. The principle criticism of Sheldon's constitutional theory was that it was not a theory at all but one general assumption, continuity between structure and behavior, and a set of descriptive concepts to measure physique and behavior in a scaled manner. HIs methodology was also criticized.

Still, some specialists consider the theory as a good basis for the temperament evaluation and assessment and claim the very positive experience with somatype investigation as the starting point for the personality exploration.

Sources and Additional Information:
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...