Temperament theory has its roots in the ancient four humors theory. It may have origins in ancient Egypt or Mesopotamia, but it was the Greek physician Hippocrates (460-370 BC) who systemized and developed it into a medical theory. He believed certain human moods, emotions and behaviors were caused by body fluids (called "humors"): blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm. Next, Galen (AD 131-200) developed the first typology of temperament in his dissertation De temperamentis, and searched for physiological reasons for different behaviors in humans. In The Canon of Medicine, Avicenna (980-1037 AD) then extended the theory of temperaments to encompass "emotional aspects, mental capacity, moral attitudes, self-awareness, movements and dreams."
Nicholas Culpeper (1616-1654) disregarded the idea of fluids as defining human behavior, and Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), Alfred Adler (1879-1937), Erich Adickes (1866-1925), Eduard Spränger (1914), Ernst Kretschmer (1920), and Erich Fromm (1947) all theorized on the four temperaments (with different names) and greatly shaped our modern theories of temperament. Hans Eysenck (1916-1997) was one of the first psychologists to analyze personality differences using a psycho-statistical method (factor analysis), and his research led him to believe that temperament is biologically based. The factors he proposed in his book Dimensions of Personality were Neuroticism (N) which was the tendency to experience negative emotions, and the second was Extraversion (E) which was the tendency to enjoy positive events, especially social ones. By pairing the two dimensions, Eysenck noted how the results were similar to the four ancient temperaments.
Other researchers developed similar systems, many of which did not use the ancient temperament names, and several paired extroversion with a different factor, which would determine relationship/task-orientation. Examples are DiSC assessment, Social Styles, and a theory that adds a fifth temperament. One of the most popular today is the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, whose four temperaments were based largely on the Greek gods Apollo, Dionysus, Epimetheus and Prometheus, and were mapped to the 16 types of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). They were renamed (SP=Artisan, SJ=Guardian, NF=Idealist, NT=Rational). Rather than using extroversion and introversion (E/I) and task/people focus, like other theories, KTS mapped the temperaments to "Sensing" and "Intuition" (S/N, renamed "concrete" and "abstract") paired with a new category, "Cooperative" and "pragmatic" . When "Role-Informative" and "Role-Directive" ( corresponding to people/task-orientation), and finally E/I are factored in, you attain the 16 types. Finally, the Interaction Styles of Linda V. Berens combines Directing and Informing with E/I to form another group of "styles" which greatly resemble the ancient temperaments, and these are mapped together with the Keirsey Temperaments onto the 16 types.
Each of the four types of humours corresponded to a different personality type.
The Sanguine temperament personality is fairly extroverted. People of a sanguine temperament tend to enjoy social gatherings and making new friends. They tend to be creative and often day dream. However, some alone time is crucial for those of this temperament. Sanguine can also mean very sensitive, compassionate and thoughtful. Sanguine personalities generally struggle with following tasks all the way through, are chronically late, and tend to be forgetful and sometimes a little sarcastic. Often, when pursuing a new hobby, interest is lost quickly--when it ceases to be engaging or fun.
A person who is choleric is a doer. They have a lot of ambition, energy, and passion, and try to instill it in others. They can dominate people of other temperaments, especially phlegmatic types. Many great charismatic military and political figures were cholerics.
A person who is a thoughtful ponderer has a melancholic disposition. Often very kind and considerate, melancholics can be highly creative – as in poetry and art - and can become occupied with the tragedy and cruelty in the world. A melancholic is also often a perfectionist. They are often self-reliant and independent...
Phlegmatics tend to be self-content and kind. They can be very accepting and affectionate. They may be very receptive and shy and often prefer stability to uncertainty and change. They are very consistent, relaxed, rational, curious, and observant, making them good administrators and diplomats. Unlike the Sanguine personality, they may be more dependable.
When the concept of the temperaments was on the wane, many critics dropped the phlegmatic, or defined it purely negatively, such as the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, as the absence of temperament. In the Five Temperaments theory, the classical Phlegmatic temperament is in fact deemed to be a neutral temperament, whereas the "relationship-oriented introvert" position traditionally held by the Phlegmatic is declared to be a new "fifth temperament."
Christian writer Tim LaHaye has attempted to repopularize the ancient temperaments through his books. In Waldorf education and anthroposophy, the temperaments are used to help understand personality. They are seen as avenues into teaching, with many different types of blends, which can be utilized to help with both discipline and defining the methods used with individual children and class balance.
Psychologist and writer Florence Littauer also describes the four personality types in her book Personality Plus.
LaHaye believes there are twelve mixtures of the four temperaments, representing people who have the traits of two temperaments, called Mel-Chlor, Chlor-San, San-Phleg, Phleg-Mel, Mel-San, Chlor-Phleg; and the reverse of these: Chlor-Mel, San-Chlor, Phleg-San, Mel-Phleg, San-Mel, and Phleg-Chlor. The order of temperaments in these pairs was based on which temperament was the "dominant" one (this is usually expressed by percentages). A person can also be a blend of three temperaments. Other four-type models, such as Social Styles, also have similar blends q.v., and in the five temperament theory, the blends are defined along the three areas of "Inclusion", "Control", and "Affection". The blends expand the number of types to sixteen (twelve blends of two types, plus the four pure types) or more (for blends of three).
It is equally important to consider the possibility that the four temperaments may not refer to personality but to mood. The distinction between mood and personality has largely been lost in modern psychology. Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholic and Phlegmatic might equally well refer to the moods of "activity", "stressful anxiety", "sadness or depressed" and "calm or placidity". This interpretation of the four temperaments, allows the medical approach to the four humours to be better understood (Miller Liz Dr, 2009). Manipulation of the four humours was about changing the way people felt, rather than changing their personality type.
Miller L, Mood Mapping 2009