History of the 4 Temperaments


Adapted from Linda V. Berens, Understanding Yourself and Others®: An Introduction to the 4 Temperaments-4.0 (Telos Publications, 2010) *Used with permission.                
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The human community can be regarded as a system, holistic in nature, seeking survival. Throughout the ages, observersw of human behavior have repeatedly identified four major patterns or configurations of behavior. Such holistic sorting of behavior patterns has been recorded for at least twenty-five centuries.

In 450 b.c., Hippocrates described four such dispositions he called temperaments-a choleric temperament with an ease of emotional arousal and sensitivity; a phlegmatic temperament with cool detachment and impassivity; a melancholic temperament with a very serious, dour, and downcast nature; and a sanguine temperament full of impulsivity, excitability, and quick reactivity. During the Middle Ages, Philippus Paracelsus described four natures whose behaviors were said to be influenced by four kinds of spirits: nymphs, sylphs, gnomes, and salamanders.



Most twentieth-century psychologists abandoned holistic observation of human behavior for a microscopic examination of parts, fragments, traits, and so on. To them, all human beings were basically alike, and individual differences were due to chance or conditioning.

Two German psychologists, Ernst Kretschmer and Eduard Spränger, were among the few to continue to view individuals holistically in terms of patterns. Inspired by their work, a modern psychologist, David Keirsey, noted common themes in the various observations and the consistent tendency of human behavior to sort itself into four similar patterns. Linda Berens continues to expand our understanding of the four temperaments through the unique contributions; including the core needs, values, talents, and behaviors of the four temperament patterns--as illustrated by The Temperament Targets™. These four major patterns are referred to as temperaments. They describe the ways human personality interacts with the environment to satisfy its needs.


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