A Brief History of Personality Tests...

The history of personality tests dates back to the moment when man started to wonder; “What am I?” He soon realized difference in the human behaviors and tried to understand the reasons.

Hippocrates’ four humors, Galen’s four physical temperaments, Carl Jung’s four mental functions, Myers Briggs four questions and Keirsey's temperament sorter are prominent posts.

Beginning of the History of Personality Tests

Hippocrates (450 B.C.)

The first name in the history of personality tests is reckoned of a Greek physician Hippocrates. He was a departure from the spiritual side of human behaviors. He theorized that every boy has four fluids (humors); blood, phlegm (respiratory secretions), yellow bile and black bile. He thought that these fluids affect human body in many ways.

Galen (190 A.D.)

Another Greek physician Galen expounded upon the theory of four body fluids. He added that different diseases and behaviors have roots in the four humors which he called temperaments. He identifies them as sanguine, phlegm, cholera, and melancholy. He believed that:

a.    Predominance of blood over other fluids causes a sanguine body. Such a person shall be warm, optimist and confident.

b.    Predominance of respiratory fluids causes a phlegmatic body. That person shall behave sluggishly, apathetically, and indifferently.

c.    Predominance of yellow bile causes a choleric body. That person shall behave violently, angrily and aggressively.

d.    Predominance of black bile causes a melancholic body. Such a person shall fall into sadness, depression, and melancholy (...not equating to the common clinical depression?).

He also believed that food, weather, life-periods and geographical conditions affect body temperaments.

For example, warm foods (...their effect) causes your body to secrete more yellow bile and result in a choleric behavior. Similarly, cold intakes (...their effect) cause more respiratory fluids and result in a melancholic behavior. He held that a healthy body is the direct result of a balance in the ratio of these four body temperaments.

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History of Personality Tests in the Changing Times...

The theories of Hippocrates and Galen continued to influence the medicine for many centuries. The philosophical and medicine concepts were taken new shapes. Temperaments started to depart from physical side of the body.

Avicenna, a Muslim physician, not only introduced four body temperaments to the Arab world but also analyzed many other reasons of human illness.

However, Wilhelm Wundt (1879 A.D.) was the first man to make clear distinction between human body and personality. He realized that temperaments can’t be limited to the body fluids. He theorized that four temperaments; sanguine, phlegm, cholera and melancholy are four dimensions of the human personality. He also founded the first psychology laboratory in Leipzig Germany.

History of Personality Tests in the 20th Century…

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history of personality tests

History of personality tests had already taken a psychological turn with Wilhelm Wundt. But there is a long list of psychologists who contributed in the personality assessment methods. Some of them include:

Adicke (1905) (1879 A.D.)

Adicke theorized four different viewpoints to look at the world. He termed these four approaches as innovative, traditional, doctrinaire and skeptical.

Eduard Spranger (1905)

At the same time Eduard Spranger, a German Philosopher, theorized four attitudes towards ethical values. He named those value attitudes as artistic, religious, theoretic and economic.

Hugo Munsterberg (1913)

He was a professor of the Harvard University. He surveyed the executives of the different organizations. He asked them for qualities which they want to see in their employees. He listed them and devised first personality test. He intended to help the employers to make the best hiring decisions.

Henry C. Link (1919)

Age of industrial revolution had already started. Henry C. Link wrote a book “Employment Psychology”. He writes that ideal personality testing method can be a big machine which received data on one end and sorts the suitable candidates for the specific jobs on the other.

Ernst Kretchmer (1920)

This German philosopher presented a theory of four character styles. He thought that people can be hypomanic, depressive, hyperesthetic or anesthetic depending upon their character styles.

Erich Fromm

Erich Fromm, another German philosopher, wrote that there are four human orientation; exploitative, hoarding, receptive and marketing.  

Carl Jung (1922)

Carl Jung, a Swiss psychologist, was the first man to theorize that people always prefer specific identifiable behaviors if they are given a free choice. He also said that by human preferences, they can be divided in different personality types. Due to the deafening noise of Freud’s theories, Carl Jung’s archetypes were not taken seriously.

Myers Briggs and Katharine Briggs (1958)

These two women applied Jung’s theory in their surroundings. They not only realized importance of these types but also refined them to enhance their effectiveness. Myers Briggs types base upon four questions:

a.    Preferred source of your energy? (Internal or external)

b.    Preferred source of perception? (Senses or Intuition)

c.    Preferred decision making system? (On logics or feelings)

d.    Preferred life style? (ordered or adaptable)

Myers Briggs identify four cognitive functions; sensory perception, sensory judgment, intuitive feeling and intuitive thinking. 

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History of Personality Tests and Kiersy’s Temperament Sorter

Keirsey's temperament sorter is a tool to identify four personality temperaments. David Kiersy claims that temperament theory is not a variant of the Myers Briggs model. However, he associates four temperaments with Myers Briggs four cognitive functions. He is much influenced with the works of Ernst Kretschmer and Erich Fromm. His four personality temperaments are:

1-    The Guardian

If Keirsey's temperament sorter determines you as a guardian, you value responsibility and team membership. Rene Baron terms you as the duty seeker. Your core needs are duty filling and responsibility. Your core desires are security, service, and system. You feel yourself responsible not only to your organization but also to your family and the society around. The ISTJ, ISFJ, ESTJ and ESFJ Myers Briggs types are included in this temperament type.

2-    The Rational

If Kiersy temperament sorter qualifies you as a rational, you value knowledge, skill and intuitive evaluation. You are analytical, experimental and factual. You not only understand abstraction but can also theorize it. Powerlessness, incapability, and ignorance make you stressful. Some psychologists term the rational as knowledge seeker. The INTJ, INTP, ENTJ and ENTP Myers Briggs types are included in this kind.

3-    The Idealist

If Kiersy temperament sorter identifies you as an idealist, you feel comfortable by following ideals. Your intuitive and feeling preferences help you to perform great tasks. Your core need is your involvement with some great work. You desire to develop not only yourself but also the people around you. The INFJ, INFP, ENFJ and ENFP Myers Briggs personality types are included in this temperament type.

4-    The Artisan

If Kiersey temperaments scale sorts you an artisan, you are action seeker. Your core needs are action and variety. Your prefer using your five senses to understand information. You are impulsive and spontaneous. You dislike routines and schedules. You love freedom of action and experiments. The ISTP, ISFP, ESTP and ESFP Myers Briggs personality types are included in this temperament type.

The history of personality tests had started with four body fluids and entered into four personality temperaments. However, it is still far from conclusion. Personality, intelligence, types, etc. are yet not fully scientific concepts. So, the history of personality tests continues.

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