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Is Type and Temperament the Same?

Is Type and Temperament the Same?

In business or organizational life, the words “psychological type” and “psychological temperament” are frequently used to describe differences in people’s personality. In fact the words “type” and “temperament” are often used interchangeably as if they described broadly the same model. However, as we will see, although they have similarities, there are some differences that should be appreciated.

Early Temperament Theory

Writing about differences in temperament started over 2000 years ago in ancient Greece with the theory that four bodily fluids (black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood) directly affect human personality traits and behaviors. The Greek physician Hippocrates (460–370 BC) incorporated the four temperaments into his medical theories. From then through modern times, this theory, or variations of it, have been part of many more general theories of medicine, psychology and literature. These ancient descriptions are still used today in the more familiar everyday language of being described as “sanguine” (pleasure-seeking and sociable), “choleric” (ambitious and leader-like), “melancholic” (introverted and thoughtful), and phlegmatic (relaxed and quiet).

Type Theory

In the early 1920s, Carl Jung, a Swiss Psychologist, (and for many years a colleague of Sigmund Freud’s) proposed that individuals have a number of basic instincts for experiencing life (which he referred to as ‘archetypes’) and that these combine to affect our personality. Jung believed that it was important to understand our inborn preference or orientation for either Extraversion or Introversion (a measure of an orientation towards using internal or external energy) or our orientation towards flexibility (Perceiving) or organization (Judging). In addition, Jung suggested that we have four “functional” mental processing preferences. These are the pair Sensing and Intuiting (with each being used primarily to Gather data), and Thinking and Feeling (with each being used primarily to make decisions).  By combining these eight orientations or functions it is then possible to described personality preferences in combination. For example, an individual may have preferences for introversion, sensing, thinking and judging in each of the four pairs (and in short-hand terms be described as having ISTJ preferences).

Later Temperament Theory

Drawing upon the ancient Greek temperament theory but also significantly influenced by Jung’s work, in the early 1970’s the  psychologist David Keirsey proposed that there were four in-born temperament patterns that could be more accurately described. These four new temperaments were linked to the Greek gods Apollo, Dionysus, Epimetheus and Prometheus, and were mapped to the same scales that Jung proposed. Kiersey chose to give these temperaments new names. These were the sensing/ perceiving Artisan (sanguine), the sensing/judging Guardian (melancholic), the intuitive/feeling Idealist (choleric), and the intuitive/thinking Rational (Phlegmatic). Rather than using extroversion and introversion (E/I) and task/people focus, like other theories, Kiersey connected the temperaments to “Sensing” and “Intuition” (which he renamed “concrete” and “abstract”) with a new pair category, “cooperative” and “pragmatic”. The Temperament writer Steve Montgomery (in his book People Patterns) later provided a further useful description of these four temperaments when he suggested that Artisans (SPs) were essentially Sensual and Practical, Guardians (SJs) were Sensible and Just, Idealists (NFs) were Intuitive and Fervent and Rationals (NTs) were Ingenious and Theoretical.

Later Type Theory

Jung’s theory was hugely influential in academic circles in the 25 years after he published his book on Psychological types in 1921 (published in English in 1923). However, his work was given a significant popular boost by work carried out by two non-psychology researchers immediately after World War 2 called Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Myers. This research led to an assessment on type, published in 1962 as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or MBTI®. It used the short hand letter codes for Extraversion (E), Introversion (I), Sensing (S), Intuition (N so as to distinguish it from Introversion), Feeling (F), Judging (J) and Perceiving (P). Myers in particular then went on to describe the 16 possible types emerging in great detail and in so doing provided a foundation upon which may have written since (covering subject such as type and teams, communication, creativity, stress, learning and many more).

The Integrated Model

Although both temperament and type theory have clearly evolved from their earliest roots, the chart below attempts to pull much of this theory together into one integrated model.

Integrated Type Theory Model

At the simplest level, we can use this chart to think of the four temperaments suggested by Kiersey but “anchor” these to other proposed by reading both horizontally and vertically. In addition, each temperament can be broken into its 4 letter type with a summary descriptor on top and its team role (as provided by the Jungian researcher Steve Myers) underneath each type.


One of the reasons for the popularity of Jung’s type model is its simplicity. There are only four dimensions to remember and each is an either-or preference. However, the most basic interpretation of type (and perhaps memorable for the uninitiated) is to describe each of the four temperamental preferences (SP-Artisans, SJ-Guardians, NF-Idealists and NT-Rationals). This allows a starting point for understanding differences in personality but allows a deeper or richer analysis for those that want to go further.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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  1. Nick WilkinsDecember 4, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    Some interesting points, but Jung’s four dimensions are NOT’either-or preferences. That fails entirely to understand the rich diversity the MBTI describes.

    • Dr. Jon WarnerDecember 16, 2012 at 9:41 pmAuthor

      Actually Jung was very much “either or” focused (unlike Myers and Briggs). For him these pairs are like being left or right handed, you do not change your preferences all things being equal, although we are clearly capabale of using both. Hence once a left hander (lets say) always a left hander, and so it goes for Sensing or Thinking for example.

  2. Vicki BrownAugust 13, 2015 at 5:15 am

    You don’t mention that Keirsey used Myers’ work (and her Type profiles) when he was developing his Temperament theory. Chronologically, “Later Temperament Theory” comes after “Later Type Theory”

    So yes, Temperament is one lens for Type.

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Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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