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Introduction to Personality Styles



Typological representation is "one of the oldest ways of distinguishing individuals with respect to personality differences" (Coan, 58). From the astrological signs of the ancient astrologers to the temperaments of Hippocrates, from the Psychological Types of Carl G. Jung to the nosology of personality of modern psychiatry, typologies have been used to try to understand personality. Offered here is a comprehensive and systematic classification of 16 personality styles.

The terms "type" and "style" are considered here to be synonymous, and are used interchangeably. But "type" is the preferred term because it better communicates the fact that both personality types and personality styles are "the products of purposeful intellectual construction" (Schwartz, 423). The term "temperament" is also used synonymously with these two terms, because I believe that temperament is the essential basis of personality. In accord with that belief, I would say that personality style is the expression of temperament, and that personality type is its conceptualization.

In Your Personality and How to Live with It, Dr. Gregory G. Young gives his definition of personality style:

Personality is a word that signifies the personal traits and patterns of behavior that are unique to the individual. You experience these traits and patterns of behavior as your own; others observe them directly or through your communication with them. Personality includes attitudes, modes of thought, feelings, impulses, strivings, actions, responses to opportunity and stress and everyday modes of interacting with others. When these elements of personality are expressed in a characteristically repeated and dynamic combination, we have what I call a personality style (3-4).

From long experience working with patients in his psychiatric practice, Dr. Young developed a typology of 12 personality styles. He came to the conclusion that "each of us fits one and only one Personality Style".

Dr. John M. Oldham has derived 14 personality styles from the classification of personality disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association: "....the personality disorders are but extremes of normal human patterns, the stuff of which all our personalities are made. Whereas the DSM-III-R identifies categories of disorder we describe here equivalent categories of orderly human functioning" (5). Dr. Oldham quotes the psychiatric manual to define the difference between personality style and personality disorder:

[T]he difference between personality functioning and malfunctioning - between style and disorder - is only one of degree. "It is only when personality traits [or styles] are inflexible and maladaptive and cause either significant functional impairment or subjective distress that they constitute Personality Disorders", states the DSM-III-R (21).

For Dr. Oldham, the personality disorders are extreme manifestations of normal personality traits and behaviors.Theodore Millon, a leading expert on the subject of personality disorders, holds a similar view, and states it in describing the "normal variant" of Schizoid Personality Disorder:

As with most personality disorders....the pattern of characteristics seen in the pathological form may also be seen in milder form among individuals who may be considered within the normal range. Hence the schizoid prototype can be considered dimensional, that is, distributed on a continuum of severity from normal at one end to seriously pathological at the other (233).

The personality disorders are, as it were, caricatures of temperament. Whatever is the pattern of personality in the normal state, is intensified, distorted, and brought to an extreme manifestation in the pathological state. PTypes personality styles are normal, non-pathological categories of personality derived from the categories of personality disorder described in psychiatric literature.



Coan, R. W., (1994). Personality types. In Corsini, R. J., (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Psychology. 2nd ed., Vol. 3 (pp. 58-60). New York: Wiley.

Millon, T. & Davis, R., (1996). Disorders of Personality: DSM-IV and Beyond. 2nd ed. New York: Wiley.

Oldham, J. M. & Morris L. B., (1991, 1995). The New Personality Self-Portrait: Why You Think, Work, Love, and Act the Way You Do. New York: Bantam.

Schwartz, M. A., Wiggins, O. P. & Norko, M. A., (1995). Prototypes, ideal types, and personality disorders: the return to classical phenomenology. In Livesley, W. John, (Ed.), The DSM-IV Personality Disorders (pp. 417-432). New York: Guilford.

Young G. G., (1978). Your Personality and How to Live with It. New York: Atheneum/SMI.







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