The Four Humors – The Ancient Origins Of Personality Testing

Original Author – Aletheia Luna


Personality Tests.  Who doesn’t love taking them?  Unless you’re a cyborg, or a brick wall, you probably have some kind of interest in learning about yourself, including your strengths, weaknesses and character traits.  But did you know that many of the best loved modern day personality tests were greatly influenced by one bizarre theory which proposed that our personalities are formed by our body fluids?

Known, in our present day, as The Four Humors, or Four Temperaments, this psychological theory influenced everything from the creation of the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator test, to the Keirsey Temperament Sorter popularly used today.

If you’re a curious and inquisitive personality test enthusiast, or are even simply interested in discovering more about bile, phlegm and blood (I’ll explain later), and how the ancient Greeks and Romans attributed them to character, read on.

Do I Have Yellow Bile, Black Bile, Blood Or Phlegm?

Interesting question, is it not?  The Greek physician Hippocrates thought so, when he purposed that our temperaments were directly influenced by our bodily fluids (hence the title).

Incorporating his biological theory of personality into his medicinal practices, Hippocrates proposed that our bodily fluids contained four distinct humors, that when balanced, produced perfect health, and when unbalanced, produced diseases and disabilities in our bodies.

Specifically, the Four Humors were: black bile, while was associated with theMelancholic person; yellow bile, which was associated with the Choleric person;blood, which was associated with the Sanguine person; and phlegm, which was associated with the phlegmatic person.  Interestingly this theory was later adopted and adapted by Western European and Islamic medicine, as can be seen in Avicenna’s Unani medicine.

Later, the Four Humors theory of temperament was discredited, but was expanded upon by researcher and psychologist David Keirsey in his Temperament Sorter.

The Four Humors

There’s a certain thrill present in discovering what “type of person” we are.  Understanding our personality types aides us in our Involutionary journey of self-discovery.  So, what season, element and organ are you?  What is the ancient analysis of your personality?  Find out below.

The Choleric Temperament

The Choleric humor is said to be the “leader temperament”.  Confident, overbearing and passionate, the Choleric person is full of bursting energy and ambition.  Cholerics are most commonly extroverted, although a certain minority can be introverted, but it’s less common.  The Choleric person is strong willed, dominant and has a quick temper.

Humor:  Yellow bile.The Four Humors   The Ancient Origins Of Personality Testing

Organ:  Spleen.

Season:  Summer.

Element:  Fire.

Modern Personality Type:  Idealist.

Here is the Choleric Personality test.

The Sanguine Temperament

Sociable, charismatic and stimulation seeking, the Sanguine person is heavily people-orientated and infectiously optimistic about life.  These are the “happy go lucky” people we often have the pleasure of meeting in our lives.  Although the Sanguine never lacks friends, they tend to be disorganized, frivolous and impulsive.

Humor:  Blood.The Four Humors   The Ancient Origins Of Personality Testing

Organ:  Liver.

Season:  Spring.

Element:  Air.

Modern Personality Type:  Artisan.

Here is the Sanguine Personality Test.

The Melancholic Temperament

Thoughtful, introspective and reserved, Melancholics are often the quiet idealists of the bunch.  In essence, they crave time alone and are serious, intense and moody, as well as sensitive, perfectionist and careful in decision making.  The Melancholic is the “brooder” of the bunch.

Humor:  Black bile.The Four Humors   The Ancient Origins Of Personality Testing

Organ:  Gall bladder.

Season:  Autumn.

Element:  Earth.

Modern Personality Type:  Guardian.

Here is the Melancholic Personality Test.

The Phlegmatic Temperament

We all tend to have those quiet, relaxed and stable people in our lives.  These are the Phlegmatic people.  The best word to define the Phlegmatic person is “consistent” because they are loyal friends, loyal  colleagues, and loyal lovers.  However, the Phlegmatic person is prone to passive-aggression and even laziness.  Essentially, they are the meek, submissive, and trustworthy “nice guys” and “good girls” of the world.

Humor:  Phlegm.The Four Humors   The Ancient Origins Of Personality Testing

Organ:  Brain/lungs.

Season:  Winter.

Element:  Water.

Modern Personality Type:  Rational.

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