The term TEMPERAMENT indicates the ‘psychological constitution’ of an individual, or the way he responds to various sensory stimuli. From homeopathic point of view, TEMPERAMENT is nothing but the ‘totality of mental symptoms’.
It basically refers to those aspects of an individual’s psychological personality, such as introversion or extroversion. Extroversion tends to be manifested in outgoing, talkative, energetic behavior, whereas introversion is manifested in more reserved and solitary behavior. Every individual has both an extroverted side and an introverted side, with one being more dominant than the other. Karl Jung defined introversion as an “attitude-type characterized by orientation in life through subjective psychic contents or focusing on one’s inner psychic activity”; and extroversion as “an attitude type characterized by concentration of interest on the external object or the outside world”. In any case, people fluctuate in their behavior all the time, and even extreme introverts and extroverts do not always act according to their type. Although many people view being introverted or extroverted as a question with only two possible answers, most contemporary trait theories measure levels of extroversion-introversion as part of a single, continuous dimension of personality, with some scores near one end, and others near the half-way mark.
Temperament has been defined as individual differences in reactivity and self-regulation that manifest in the domains of emotion, activity and attention. Temperament of an individual is determined through specific behavioral profiles, usually focusing on those that are both easily measurable and testable early in childhood. Commonly tested factors include irritability, activity, frequency of smiling, and an approach or avoidant posture to unfamiliar events. The specific behaviors are: activity level, regularity of sleeping and eating patterns, initial reaction, adaptability, intensity of emotion, mood, distractibility, persistence and attention span, and sensory sensitivity.
Following nine traits have been identified by researchers as the basis of evaluating one’s temperament:
1. Activity: Activity refers to the person’s physical energy. Is he constantly moving, or does the has a relaxing approach? A high-energy person may have difficulty sitting still at work, where as the low-energy type will remain calm.
2. Regularity: Regularity refers to the level of predictability in a person’s biological functions, such as waking, becoming tired, hunger, and bowel movements. Does the he has a routine in eating and sleeping habits, or are these events more random? For example, a person with a high regularity rating may want to eat at 2 p.m. every day, whereas one lower on the regularity scale may eat at sporadic times throughout the day.
3. Initial reaction: Initial reaction is also known as Approach or Withdrawal. This refers to how the person responds (whether positively or negatively) to new people or environments. Does he approach people or things in the environment without hesitation, or does he shy away? A bold person tends to approach things quickly, as if without thinking, whereas a cautious one typically prefers to watch for a while before engaging in new experiences.
4. Adaptability: Adaptability refers to how long it takes the person to adjust to change over time (as opposed to an initial reaction). Does he adjust to the changes in their environment easily, or is he slow to adapt? One who adjusts easily may be quick to settle into a new routine, whereas a resistant person may take a long time to adjust to the situation.
5. Intensity: Intensity refers to the energy level of a positive or negative response. Does the person react intensely to a situation, or does the respond in a calm and quiet manner? A more intense person may burst screaming with excitement, whereas a mild-mannered person may smile or show no emotion.
6. Mood: Mood refers to the person’s general tendency towards a happy or unhappy demeanor. All persons have a variety of emotions and reactions, such as cheerful and stormy, happy and unhappy. Yet each person biologically tends to have a generally positive or negative outlook. A person who frequently smiles could be considered a cheerful one, whereas one who frequently fusses might be considered the opposite.
7. Distractibility: Distractibility refers to the individual’s tendency to be sidetracked by other things going on around them. Does he get easily distracted by what is happening in the environment, or can he concentrate despite the interruptions? An easily distracted person is engaged by external events and has difficulty returning to the task at hand, whereas a rarely distracted person stays focused and completes the task at hand.
8. Persistence and attention span: Persistence and attention span refer to the individual’s length of time on a task and ability to stay with the task through frustrations—whether he stays with an activity for a long period of time or loses interest quickly.
9. Sensitivity: Sensitivity refers to how easily an individual is disturbed by changes in the environment. This is also called sensory threshold or threshold of responsiveness. Is the person bothered by external stimuli like noises, textures, or lights, or does he seem to ignore them? A sensitive person may lose focus when a door slams, whereas one less sensitive to external noises will be able to maintain focus.
Factors determining the temperament of a person also includes anticipation, impulsiveness, increased or decreased levels of activity, desire for sensation seeking, shyness, self-esteem or lack of it, fear, frustration, sadness, discomfort, anger, fearfulness, aggression, attention, sensitivity, pleasure threshold, irritability, alertness, etc etc.
Psychologists have developed a theory of FIVE TEMPERAMENTS, which classifies individuals into five distinct categories. Five temperaments is a theory that expands upon the Four Temperaments proposed in ancient medical theory based on the concept of ‘body humors’. It is a measure of interpersonal relations orientations that calculates a person’s behavior patterns based on the scoring of a questionnaire. This system of analysis graded questionnaires on two scales in three dimensions of interpersonal relations. When paired with temperament theory, a measurement of five temperaments resulted.
These FIVE temperamental categories are SANGUINE (quick, impulsive, and relatively short-lived reactions), PHLEGMATIC (a longer response-delay, but short-lived response), CHOLERIC (short response time-delay, but response sustained for a relatively long time), MELANCHOLIC (long response time-delay, response sustained at length, if not, seemingly, permanently) and SUPINE (more needy for acceptance from people, yet less able to initiate and express this need, frustrated)
TEMPERAMENTS of individuals are identified by their DRIVING NEEDS. For the Melancholic, the motivation is fear of rejection and/or the unknown. They have a low self-esteem and, figuring that others do not like them, they reject others first. The Supine also has low self-esteem, but is driven to try to gain acceptance by liking and serving others. The Sanguine is driven by the need for attention, and tries to sell themselves through their charm, and accepts others before those others can reject them. Their self-esteem crashes if they are nevertheless rejected. Yet, they will regain the confidence to keep trying to impress others. The Choleric is motivated by their goals, in which other people are tools to be used. The Phlegmatic’s lack of a motivation becomes their driving need: to protect their low energy reserve.
TEMPERAMENTS is determined by the complex bio-molecular processes happening in the central nervous system. Most experts agree that temperament has a GENETIC, EPIGENETIC and biological basis, although environmental factors, nutrition and maturation modify the ways an individual’s personality is expressed. For scientific understanding of the bio-molecular processes involved in ‘temperaments’, we need the help of Behavioral genetics, Behavioral epigenetics and Behavioral neuroscience.
The Human Genome Project has allowed scientists to understand the coding sequence of human DNA nucleotides. Once candidate genes for behaviors are discovered, scientists may be able to genetically screen individuals to determine their likelihood of developing certain pathologies.
Behavioral neuroscience, also known as biological psychology, is the application of the principles of biology, in particular neurobiology , to the study of physiological, genetic, and developmental mechanisms of behavior in humans and non-human animals. It typically investigates at the level of neurons, neurotransmitters, brain circuitry and the basic biological processes that underlie normal and abnormal behavior.
Behavioral epigenetics is the field of study examining the role of epigenetics in shaping human behaviour. It is an experimental science that seeks to explain how nurture shapes nature, where nature refers to biological heredity and nurture refers to virtually everything that occurs during the life-span such as social-experience, diet and nutrition, and exposure to toxins). Behavioral epigenetics attempts to provide a framework for understanding how the expression of genes is influenced by experiences and the environment to produce individual differences in behavior, cognition, personality, and mental health. Epigenetic gene regulation involves changes other than to the sequence of DNA and includes changes to histones (proteins around which DNA is wrapped) and DNA methylation. These epigenetic changes can influence the growth of neurons in the developing brain as well as modify activity of the neurons in the adult brain. Together, these epigenetic changes on neuron structure and function can have a marked influence on an organism’s behavior.
Endogenous or exogenous chemical molecules such as bacterial and viral toxins, food articles, antibodies, hormones, metabolic byproducts, drugs, environmental pollutants etc, that can produce modifications in the actions of enzymes involved in histone mythylation and acetylization can thereby epigenetically influence the genetic expression and protein synthesis. When this happens in the cells of central nervous system, it may bring behavioral and temperamental changes.
If a drug substance could produce ‘temperamental’ changes in healthy individuals when applied in crude form as part of drug proving, that means the drug substance contains some chemical molecules that could act upon certain epigenetic factors in the neurons in a way influencing genetic expression of ‘temperamental’ genes. In molecular imprints forms, such drug substances can rectify such molecular errors and cure those ‘temperamental, behavioral or mood-related disorders.