Types of Temperament: Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholic and Phlegmatic

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What is a temperament? What are the four types of temperament and why is it important to define them in yourself and others? How is the temperament related to a character?
A company of people with different types of temperament

Different types of temperament determine a person’s tendency to a behave in a certain manner and how they perceive life. They are not the only part of the psyche. There are also categories such as character, personality, etc. However, all these parts are closely inter-related. But how? How do you determine your own or someone else’s type of temperament and is it so necessary?

What is Temperament

Temperament is a set of genetically determined psychic qualities a person possesses, which are determined by many factors, including brain chemistry and the central nervous system. It is an innate property of the psyche that a person can’t change. However, a person is often able to successfully conceal certain qualities of their temperament, while honing others. Nevertheless, in stressful situations, it is more likely that the innate qualities will appear and not the acquired ones.

By the way, not only people have temperament but some animals, including dogs, cats, monkeys, horses, dolphins, etc. Human and animal temperament types are in many ways similar, the but human ones are deeper and more complicated.

The basic types of temperament are: Choleric, Sanguine, Phlegmatic, Melancholic. Now the main focus is the ratio of these temperament types in the psyche of the individual. In nature, there are no people with the same kind of temperament. But, a person can possess all four types of temperament at the same time. However, one or two of them are dominant. What does It mean?

For example, there is a personality who is 50% sanguine, 30% melancholic, 15% phlegmatic and 5% choleric. (This is a conditional calculation since it is impossible to measure the exact percentage.) Obviously, the dominant type is sanguine, and in most life situations, the person will behave according to the sanguine temperament. However, in some cases, melancholic may appear and temporarily, partially shadow the dominant (sanguine) type. Phlegmatic and choleric also appear periodically, but more rarely and briefly. Our quiz will help to determine your tendency to a particular temperament.

But it is impossible to say exactly when a particular temperament type will surface. There are several hypotheses:

However, it can’t be said that all these properties arise from nowhere. If a particular type of temperament was not present in a person when they were born, then it will never appear. A person may pretend to be a phlegmatic but may never truly become one. That is, it will be terrible for a melancholic to try new things, no matter how hard they try to be brave. And a phlegmatic will continue to work slowly, but thoughtfully, even if the deadline has already arrived.

Temperament and character

These are different concepts. Temperament is biologically conditioned and unchanged. The character can change during life, although it depends partly on the structure of the person’s nervous system. The person may be able to influence it, but at the same time, developing or eliminating a certain trait takes a lot of time and effort.

A person’s character gets formed and changed as a result of:

It’s hard to say that one factor significantly changes a person’s character. A combination of several factors is required to bring forth changes to any trait. That is, a person may live their whole life with the type of character that was formed in their adolescence.

Temperament (T) does not “program” character (C) but there is a mutual connection between these psycho-properties:


Temperament. The mental processes of a phlegmatic personality are slow. The choleric’s ones, on the other hand, are very fast.

Character. Both of these types have acquired such qualities as responsibility, hard-work and persistence.

Situation. Two specialists are assigned to an important project. The company’s reputation is at stake.

Behavior. The phlegmatic person sits at work for hours and slowly but qualitatively, performs all tasks successively. They systematically adhere to a pattern of work, which they consider the most effective and useful for the company. The choleric dives in head-first, makes a hundred decisions per hour, continuously solves problems as they arrive and improvises on the fly.

It turns out that the same character traits appear differently due to different temperaments.

Is it important to determine the type of temperament?

It’s definitely important and it is useful to learn how to calculate not only your type (or types) but also the types of others. Knowledge of you own psycho-complex and its characteristics provides the following advantages:

In the end, it’s just interesting and informative. As for the definition of others’ types, there are such advantages:

The situation is like a poker game. A person who is unaware of their temperament does not even understand the value of their own cards. But the one who macroscopically studies the game clearly sees the whole deck of cards and easily calculates their opponents’ combinations.

To find out your type, it is enough to take a temperament quiz. If you need to understand another person, just watch them. Some features are immediately visible (e.g. body language), the others take more time.

Principles of temperament determining

In modern psychology, there is no single accepted classification system for all of these principles. However, there are several popular ones. These include the theories of the ancient Greek doctor, Hippocrates; and the Roman physician, Galen; the Russian physiologist, Ivan Pavlov, and the British psychologist, Hans Eysenck.

Hippocrates and Galen

In ancient Greece and Rome, knowledge about psychology and its connections with biology, were not as developed as they are today. However, the theories of these scientists deserve to be considered. They were the first who named the four types of temperament and tried to give them a biological explanation.

Some doctors and philosophers of that time tried to develop similar theories but did not achieve significant success. Hippocrates and Galen systematized their knowledge and conjectures and then presented them as a complete theory. It was based on the idea of the predominance of a specific fluid (humor, or humours) in the body of each person:

Each liquid, as the doctors thought, forced a person to show certain qualities. It is hysteria for a choleric, liveliness for a sanguine, calmness for a phlegmatic and sadness for a melancholic.

Ivan Pavlov

This scientist believed that the main principles determining the type of temperament were strength, mobility and equilibrium.

Strength is the ability of the individual to be hearty, to maintain performance even during intense and/or long-term loads and to recover quickly. Kinds: strong (hearty) and weak (gets tired quickly).

Mobility is the feature of higher nervous activity which is expressed in the ability of the individual to quickly switch between tasks, absorb new information and respond to external stimuli. Kinds: mobile (reacts quickly and easily) and inert (reacts slowly).

Equilibrium is the characteristic of the individual that allows them to control emotions, restrain sudden impulses and desires, and to remain balanced. Kinds: equilibrated (calm) and non-equilibrated (emotionally expressive).

The way these categories appear in temperament is shown in the table below.

Types of temperament
Weak Melancholic
Strong Choleric Mobile, non-equilibrated
Sanguine Mobile, equilibrated
Phlegmatic Inert, equilibrated

Hans Eysenck

The English psychologist believed that the most important factors for determining temperament is the scale of introversion-extraversion, neuroticism and psychoticism.

Introversion-extraversion is the subject-object orientation of the individual; the direction of the main flow of their attention. Kinds: introversion (focus on internal mental processes) and extraversion (focus on the outside world).

Neuroticism is the degree of emotional balance of the individual. Kinds: emotional stability (calmness, fixation) and lability (hysteria, neurosis).

Psychoticism is the degree of the predisposition of an individual to psychosis. Modern scientists deny the importance of this category in determining the psychotype. It is a part of the psyche but not the central one. In addition, the psychotic scale is a very branchy and ambiguous characteristic. Therefore, it is ignored in many tests nowadays.

The table below shows the ratio of these categories according to the views of Eysenck.

Categories Introversion Extraversion
Lability Melancholic Choleric
Stability Phlegmatic Sanguine

Types of temperament and their differences


Choleric: Hyperactive, quick-tempered, hasty, sociable, a leader

Sanguine: Active, cheerful, superficial, sociable, a joker

Phlegmatic: Calm, slow, thoughtful, withdrawn, fixated

Melancholic: Vulnerable, creative, empathic, smart, emotional

Body type

Choleric. Tall stature, thin build, long, narrow, flat chest. The forehead is wider than the lower part of the face and the chin is pointed. The nose is also pointed with a downward tip; it may be aquiline. Long neck, well-defined cheekbones.

Sanguine. Rounded smooth forms, average or short stature, short wide bones. Wide short ribcage, round head, and forehead, poorly defined cheekbones, short thick legs and neck.

Phlegmatic. Wide bones, massive physique, short thick neck, wide short ribcage having a rounded shape. Big straight nose with tip lowered. The chin is the same width as the forehead or wider.

Melancholic. Pointed features, frail physique, thin bones, weak muscles, a flat chest, a long thin neck, a high square forehead. The upper part of the face is much wider than the bottom.


Choleric: Weakness of the digestive system (liver, gallbladder). Pulse is 75-85 beats per minute.

Sanguine: Weakness of the cardiovascular system. Pulse is 65-75 beats per minute.

Phlegmatic: Weakness of the digestive system (stomach, intestines). Pulse is less than 65 beats per minute.

Melancholic: Weakness of the nervous system. Pulse is more than 85 beats per minute.


Choleric: Quickly becomes close and emotionally attached to people. It is hard for them to break up.

Sanguine. Rarely becomes quickly attached to people; easily replaces one person with another

Phlegmatic. It takes a long time for them to get close to people. However, once they become attached, it is hard to get people out of their life.

Melancholic: It takes a lot of time for them to get close to people; but they slowly become attached. It is hard for them to break up.

Career and working capacity

Choleric: Active, ambitious, persistent, creative; the boss, the leader — likes to lead. The priority is career growth.

Sanguine: Active, ambitious, superficial; an excellent organizer — the leader who loves recognition. The priority is money.

Phlegmatic: Inert, slow, serious, reliable, subordinate; they like to analyze, systematize. The priority is stability.

Melancholic: Inert, quickly gets tired, subordinate; dreamer, thinker, creative person. The priority is a friendly warm atmosphere.

Stress response

Choleric: Quickly gets angry and irritated; openly expresses their emotions. Calms down quickly as well. Seeks to solve the problem.

Sanguine: Ignores the problem or finds advantages in it. Finds the one who can solve the problem or switches to another task.

Phlegmatic: Reflects on the causes of the problem. Ponders the decision for a long time, then executes it systematically.

Melancholic: Gets lost and panicked; looks for support and help. If they are not found, they often give up and spend a long time to worrying about it.


Choleric: Needs popularity as they like when people are dependent on them. Goes ahead, risks, donates and sacrifices.

Sanguine: Requires recognition because they love to be admired. They usually bypass the obstacles.

Phlegmatic: Seeks to maintain the current state of affairs. Gets rid of obstacles only if they interfere with their measured life; however, they do it effectively.

Melancholic: Needs recognition and emotional support for the sake of increasing their self-esteem. Often stops making efforts because they are afraid that they will not handle things well.

Interests and hobbies

Choleric: Sports, extreme activities, traveling, competitions, communication, quest games, excitement and risk

Sanguine: Acting (theater and movies), humor, social work, communication, gossip and traveling

Phlegmatic: Puzzles, reading, needlework, cinematography, science, nature, mechanics and architecture

Melancholic: Art, puzzles, mysticism and esoterics, philosophy, meditation and handicrafts

The knowledge of how different types of temperament react to the world and life situations can be highly useful. Comprehension of yourself and others facilitates and accelerates the achievement of internal (personality) and external (relationship) harmony.

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