Long before the fab four

kachina_paper dolls 4 copyMany of the most current personality assessments are built  on much older theories.  Sometime around 2400 years ago, the physician Hippocrates described his theory that human moods, emotions were caused by an excess or lack of basic body fluids. Too much blood and you became giddy and talkative, too little and you would become morose. Feeling lazy? Blame it on too much phlegm.  He probably borrowed the ideas from someone before him. Although it was not a sound medical observation, the idea of four different temperaments, or basis of personality keeps reappearing.  And like artists using tempera paint (which comes from the same root word temperare meaning to mix) philosophers, physicians and psychologist kept mixing four different factors to obtain their spectrum of personalities.

The four basic personalities according to the ancients were:

  • Choleric  – ambitious, energetic, aggressive, even tyrannical.
  • Sanguine – charismatic, impulsive, pleasure loving and self-indulgent.
  • Phlegmatic – observant, steady, calm sometimes to point of sluggishness
  • Melancholic – independent, cautious, moody and the most depressed of the four

Think about some of the personality assessments described so far, the five factor has four “normal” factors and one to determine how “neurotic” or abnormal the personality is. The Meyers Briggs Personality Inventory uses 4 factors expressed 4 opposing pairs. You probably heard of many more four part personality compartmentalizers.

In the early twentieth century psychologist William Moulton Marston created a cartoon character name Wonder Woman, interesting because he was a creative person and also because he came up with his own personality theory. His theory is known by its initials DISC which stood for the four quadrants, Dominance, Inducement, Submissive and Compliance. This model has been adopted by many companies providing psycho-metrics for business, and typically you will see quadrant titles like Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness because the last three seem to require more acceptable descriptors for the twentieth century person.

Now, there has not been any academic research on this since the 1950, and the modern models mix the temperaments in their own ways. But his original theory does have something interesting to note about creative type and leader type personalities. Creativity resulted as a combination of Dominance and Compliance. This would be a person that would alternately be aggressive or submit to aggression. Sounds a bit like the moody melancholic, doesn’t it? The leaders tended to show combinations of Dominance and Inducement (basically the use of persuasion). They were too focused on obtaining a following to spend the time and detail to produce creative work.

If you want to find out more about Marston’s theory his book, Emotions of Normal People, is available as a free download (a lot cheaper than an original Wonder Woman comic): https://archive.org/details/emotionsofnormal032195mbp

Art work by S.L. Listman
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