Physiological basis of temperament - Psychology

Physiological basis of temperament

The search for the material basis of individual psychological differences of people is rooted in the deep past and refers to different human civilizations and cultures.


With reference to the European, Western civilization, the traditional reference point is usually called the humoral constructions of the father of Hippocrates' scientific medicine and the later interpretations of the ancient Roman anatomist Claudius Galen (II century). This theory applies not so much to temperament as to the design of the human body. Everything in it is predetermined by the "proper ratio of things", the proportion of the four main components (elements, liquids). Their predominance gives four variants of the body composition: warm-moist with dominance of blood (sangwis), warm-dry with predominance of bile (cholus), cold-moist, or phlegmatic (mucus, lymph), and cold-dry with domination of black bile ). Each device of the body is associated with a predisposition to a particular type of disease, psychological features are singled out.

The great German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) considered the chemical composition of the blood to cause psychological differences in people and gave colorful descriptions to the four named types, also identifying the temperament with the character.

Probably, in the human body there is no such feature with which these or other psychological differences are trying to connect. This is the shape of the hand, and the folds of the skin on the palm (palmistry), and the tissue skin index, and the shape of the face (physiognomy), and the shape of the skull (phrenology). There were primitive constructions and quite sophisticated, learned.

The constitutional theories , which connect the mental differences of people with the features of the body structure, have become widespread. The most influenced psychology was the well-formed constitutional theory of the German psychologist Ernest Kretschmer (1888-1964) and the American William Herbert Sheldon (1899-1977).

In the theoretical construction of E. Kretschmer three types of constitutions are distinguished:

Leptosomal (narrow), with narrow and long limbs, hollow chest, narrow skull; prone to schizotimic temperament (isolation, selfishness, contrast of experiences and behavior);

picnic (compact), characterized by roundness and softness of habit, development of adipose tissue and psychologically prone to cyclothymic temperament (sociability, gaiety, warmth, goodness);

athletic , with a developed musculature, broad shoulders and predisposed to an ixotemic temperament (calmness, restraint, inflexibility).

The dysplastic type is composite, mixed, nonstandard.

The theory of E. Kretschmer was justified criticism. The author did not take into account the age of the subjects and his influence on the constitution and personal characteristics. In human soma, there are at least two independent dimensions: transverse and sagittal. The concept is fatalistic and categorical, besides it is insufficiently confirmed quantitatively. However, the terminology introduced by Kretschmer is common in modern psychology, especially with respect to character descriptions.

The theory of W. Sheldon is built more thoroughly. Being initially opposed to the typological approach, the author put forward the idea of ​​ dimensionality, ie. continuous quantitative distribution in the mass of people of any measured sign - both physical and psychological. However, as a result of the research, he also came to actually typological gradations. The extreme cases (poles) of somatotypes receive here such a description:

endomorphism (maximum development of the corresponding embryonic leaf) as softness, roundness of appearance, underdevelopment of bone and muscle systems, which corresponds to a viscerotonic temperament characterized by relaxation, emotional immediacy, slow reaction, love of comfort and communication :

a mesomorphism, manifested in the hardness and angularity of the body, in physical strength and psychologically correlated with the somatonic temperament as a thirst for action, confidence, a tendency to dominate:

ectomorphism , consisting of physical brittleness, stoop, development of the skull and central nervous system, which leads to cerebrotonic temperament, which manifests itself in secrecy, timidity, restraint, anxiety, inclination to loneliness.

The theory of W. Sheldon was tested empirically, criticized for theoretical omissions, but this does not mean, as in the previous case, that all the factual material is absolutely untrue, groundless.

In constitutional theories, not so much the temperament as the psychology of the personality as a whole is described, and this is sometimes excessively categorical, simplistic in terms of the correlation of biological and social. But the dependence of many of the psychic properties of the personality on the bodily features and especially the diseases exists objectively. This relationship can also be traced backwards. This is carefully investigated, for example, by modern psychosomatics and psychophysiology, personality psychology and clinical psychology, used in many areas of psychotherapy, psychiatry and psychopharmacology.

The main biological organ, which produces psyche, is the nervous system, the human brain. Hence, they should first of all look for the physiological basis of temperament. The scientific merit of this formulation of the question belongs to IP Pavlov. This was a step fundamentally new and scientifically promising.

The second step in this scientific direction was to allocate the properties of the nervous system as a set of physiological parameters, clearly verifiable, measurable indicators that differentiate one nervous system from another. At school I. II. Pavlova identified and studied three such properties:

1) force as ability to work, endurance, a measure of exhaustion of nerve cells, the ability to withstand the stimulus for a long time, without going into prohibitive inhibition;

2) equilibrium - this property measures the balance, the quantitative ratio of the processes of excitation and inhibition in the nerve cell;

3) mobility - an indicator of the rapidity of the alteration of the sign of the conditioned reflex, the change in the processes of excitation and inhibition.

The next logical step in IP Pavlov's research was the introduction of the notion of the type of nervous system (higher nervous activity) as a combination of the listed properties. In the final scheme of 1936 this typology took the following form:

* Presence of the selected type (encircled).

And. P. Pavlov believed that the weakness of the nervous system veils all other properties, and therefore a weak type is immediately identified, which corresponds to a melancholic temperament. The second type is formed as a combination of the strength of the nervous system and its imbalance (predominance of excitation over inhibition); it corresponds to a choleric temperament. The third and fourth types contain the parameters of all three properties: strong, balanced, mobile (sanguine temperament) and strong, balanced, immobile (phlegmatic temperament). So, each type of nervous system is given the name of one of the four classical types of temperament (see diagram).

Thorough physiological studies of Pavlov's school surpassed the work of contemporaries and laid the foundations for a unique domestic psycho-physiological trend in the study of temperament. Recall that all the studies of this school were conducted only on dogs and on the author's experimental methods for developing conditioned reflexes.

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