Temperaments: Which of the 4 Types Are You?

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We often use the term temperament to describe a person's personality. You might go, "they have a lovely temperament," or "he has an unpleasant temperament." However, your temperament only forms part of your personality.

The Oxford dictionary defines temperament as a person's nature shown in how they behave or react to people or situations. While this is factual, this definition is a little limiting. 

Your temperament also includes your innate behavioral and personality traits. It's your natural propensity and will often shine through in your daily interactions. Your temperament even determines the way your mind works. 

Over the years, scientists have identified four broad temperaments under which a person might fall. There is no exact science to it, and some people identify with more than one type of temperament. This article delves into the science behind the four main temperaments and provides ways that could help you determine what type of temperament you have.

How Is Your Temperament Formed?

Your temperament is believed to be innate, mainly influenced by genetics. It's not uncommon for someone to have temperaments similar to a parent or grandparent. Research shows that 20 to 60% of your temperament is determined by genetics.

External environmental factors such as negative and positive childhood experiences can also shape temperaments. For example, a person who grew up in an abusive family could become melancholic. 

Temperament vs. Personality

Although both terms are similar and often used interchangeably, they are distinct from each other. Your temperament isn't the same as your personality. 

Personality is a broad term used to refer to a unique set of behaviors, traits, and emotions that typically determine your behavior. You can think of personality as a more comprehensive concept under which your temperament, as well as other personality traits, falls.

Your personality is also more likely to change than your temperament as you age and live through new life experiences. It's not unusual for an introverted child to become an extroverted adult.

Types of Temperament

Over decades researchers and scientists have settled and expanded on four distinct types of temperament. The theory of four primary temperaments can be traced back hundreds of years. Hippocrates first proposed it in Ancient Greece, suggesting four bodily humors determine a person's behavior. The classifications we use today were proposed by Galen based on the theory of bodily humors. 

The distribution of temperament types across a community depends on factors such as culture, age, and gender. The four main types of temperament include:


People who are defined as sanguine are typically extroverted and sociable. They are chipper people who see a glass as half full instead of half empty. You will likely find them in the middle of a crowd and not at the fringes. Social interactions come easy to them, and they can be talkative and energetic. 

While sanguine people seem to have positive traits, the same personality traits that make them fun to be around could also make them impulsive and indecisive. Their impulsivity can sometimes manifest as seeking out thrill-seeking behaviors, which in extreme cases could include drug use. 


The defining characteristics of choleric people are dominant and assertive. People who belong to this temperament type are goal-oriented and driven. They are high achievers at work, school, or even play and are often selected as team leaders. 

Unlike sanguines, choleric people are decisive but can be impatient and stubborn. They could prioritize achieving set goals over fostering critical social connections and relationships. 


Laid-back is the word that's likely to come to mind when encountering a phlegmatic person immediately. They are easygoing people who tend to be very empathetic when relating with others. They are dependable and patient people who find comfort in the mundane and routine. 

Phlemagtic people show little emotion, which can come across as passive or unfeeling during social interactions. Their need to avoid conflict at all costs can be disadvantageous, causing them to miss out on opportunities when they fail to assert themselves. 


People often conflate melancholic with joyless or sad, but there's so much more to people with this temperament. Although reserved, melancholic people are also thoughtful and sensitive. They can also be analytical and methodic, especially at work, making them valuable to any workplace. Conversely, they prefer to work alone and might not make the best team players. They get moody and anxious when things aren't going their way. 

How Do I Know My Temperament?

The internet is rife with dozens of self-assessment tools to help you determine your temperament. It's essential to be careful when using these tools, however. Many of them may not produce accurate results, and people often need to be self-aware enough to answer the questions in these self-assessment tests honestly. Factors such as your emotional state or mood can skew your answers, altering your results.

Two of the most common self-assessment tests for determining your temperament include the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Big Five Personality Traits test. Both tests use a set of questions to evaluate what temperament best fits your personality trait.

The most effective way to determine your temperament type is by consulting with a mental health expert. They are equipped with better tools and experience to assess your behavior and responses. 

Can Someone Have Two Temperaments?

Human beings are diverse and complex individuals. No single person fits squarely under one particular type. However, you are likely to exhibit behaviors associated with one style primarily; this could be referred to as your dominant temperament. You may also have less prevalent behaviors that belong to other temperament types. 

For instance, a person may exhibit behaviors that come across as moody, stoic, and reserved, which are characteristically melancholic but can also be dominant and assertive, which are characteristically choleric. 

Can Temperaments Change?

The theories upon which temperament styles are based suggest that it's innate, typically influenced by external factors such as childhood experiences and family history. However, it's not unusual to desire to change certain personality traits about yourself that can be associated with specific temperaments. 

It may be a little challenging, but it's possible to change your temperament style, especially with the help of a mental health expert. You might be a typically laid-back person wanting to be more dominant or a reserved person seeking to become more outgoing. Whichever the case, therapy and deliberate lifestyle changes such as journaling or mirroring personality traits of the temperament you desire can help.  

Certain temperaments are more at risk of developing harmful habits that need to be managed. Choleric people can be quick to anger. If this is you, then you may benefit from anger management sessions

A Word From Verywell 

Your temperament determines how you move through life and engage with people and situations. Learning more about your temperament style increases your self-awareness and gives some insight into why you make specific decisions or exhibit particular behaviors. 

If you don't identify with one particular style, that's not a bad thing. You stand to benefit from adopting positive traits exhibited by all types of temperaments. 

6 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. Temperament.

  2. National Library of Medicine. Is temperament determined by genetics?

  3.  American Psychological Association. Personality

  4. Ashton MC. Biological bases of personality. In: Individual Differences and Personality. Elsevier; 2018:107-125.

  5. The Berkeley Well-Being Institute. Temperaments: definition, examples, & types.

  6. Furnham A. The big five facets and the mbti: the relationship between the 30 neo-pi(R) facets and the four myers-briggs type indicator (Mbti) scores. PSYCH. 2022;13(10):1504-1516.

By Toketemu Ohwovoriole
Toketemu has been multimedia storyteller for the last four years. Her expertise focuses primarily on mental wellness and women’s health topics.