SHELDON’S SOMATOTYPE THEORY

personality psychology  SHELDON’S SOMATOTYPE THEORY:

Constitutional Psychology

Sheldon’s Somatotype Theory Constitutional Psychology

Constitutional psychology looks at the physique or soma or body type as possible explanation of human behavior.

Sheldon’s Somatotype Theory

Sheldon looks at the physique or body type (soma) for the explanation of human behavior.

Sheldon defines:

1- A discrete number of physical and

2-Temperamental variables, he considers of primary importance in representing human behavior.

A complete description of the process of somatotyping the male body is contained in Sheldon’s Atlas of

men (1954) which includes representative somatotype photographs of over one thousand men derived from a total sample of 46,000 photographs.

The physical measurements provide ratings for the five different areas of the body: head-neck, chest-trunk, arms, stomach-trunk, and legs.

1-The Structure of Physique

Dimensions of Physique Primary Components of Physique

  • Endomorphy
  • Mesomorphy
  • Ectomorphy

2-The Secondary Components

  • Dysplasia.
  • Female Somatotyping

3-The Analysis of Behavior (Personality)

Dimensions of Temperament 1- Primary Components of Temperament 2- The Secondary Components

4-The Relation of Physique to Behavior (Personality )

1-Factors Mediating the Physique- Temperament Association 2-Biological and Genetic Orientation 3-Unconscious Processes

5- Characteristic Research and Research Methods

1-Physique and Mental Disorder 2-Physique and Delinquency

6-Evaluation

• We had discussed the following with you

1-The Structure of Physique

Dimensions of Physique

Primary Components of Physique

1-endomorphy

2-mesomorphy

3-ectomorphy

2-The Secondary Components

  • Dysplasia.
  • Female Somatotyping

3- The Analysis of Behavior (Personality)

  • Dimensions of Temperament
  • Primary Components of Temperament
  • So now let us talk about lecture no 18
  • which begins from the concept of

3-The Analysis of Behavior (Personality)

Given a stable means of assessing the physical aspects of the human build, the constitutional psychologist must still devise or borrow some method of assessing behavior in order to explore the relation between physique and personality.

Dimensions of Temperament

Initially the literature of personality, especially that having to do with specifying human traits, was carefully inspected, and a list of 650 traits was extracted. The list was increased by adding variables derived from the investigator’s own observations and then was sharply reduced through combining overlapping dimensions and eliminating those that seemed of no significance. In the end Sheldon and his co-workers had a total of 50 traits that seemed to them to represent all of the specific phenomena that had been dealt with by the original 650 traits.

Primary Components of Temperament

The results of the correlation analysis revealed three major clusters or groups of traits that included twenty-two of the original fifty items. The first group included traits of relaxation, love of comfort, pleasure in digestion, dependence on social approval, deep sleep, and need of people when troubled.

The traits spanned by the second cluster included assertive posture, energetic characteristic, need of exercise, directness of manner, unrestrained voice, quality of seeming older, need of action when troubled.

Finally, there was a third group of traits, including restraint in posture, overly fast reaction, sociophobia, inhibited social address, resistance to habit, vocal restraint, poor sleep habits, youthful intentness, need of solitude when troubled.

4-The Relation of Physique to Behavior (Personality)

We have now seen how Sheldon identified what he considered to be the basic components of physique (structure) and temperament (function).

Factors Mediating the Physique- Temperament Association

We accept here the existence of a marked relation between measures of physique and measures of important behavioral attributes, and inquire into what has led to this striking congruence. One may reason that an individual who is endowed with a particular type of physique is likely to find certain kinds of responses particularly effective while an individual with another type of physique will find it necessary to adopt other modes of response.

The individual with a frail ectomorphic body cannot successfully adopt an aggressive, domineering manner in relation to most people, whereas it may be perfectly possible for the oversized mesomorph to do so. Further, the child with a small stomach, or low thresholds for pain, may be exposed to characteristic experiences that are strikingly different from those typical for individuals of different physical characteristics. Given a particular physique and a normal environment, the individual finds certain kinds of responses are relatively often rewarded and certain other kinds of responses are usually punished. This implies that the individual will develop patterns of behavior that will show similarity to the behavior of other people, who because of sharing the same kind of physiques have had similar sets of experiences.

Another possibility is that the relation between physique and temperament is mediated by commonly accepted stereotypes or the social-stimulus value within the culture in regard to the sort of behavior to be expected of individuals with different kinds of physique.

Biological and Genetic Orientation

Many personality theorists have chosen to place a heavy emphasis upon the psychobiological nature of human behavior (Murray, Murphy, and Freud)

In many respects the details of Sheldon’s position may be considered to stem from a conviction that biological factors are of overwhelming importance in accounting for human behavior and his consequent decision to attempt the measurement of important elements of this biological foundation of behavior. As we have seen from his distinction between the somatotype and the morphogenotype, the measurement of physique is merely a means of estimating the underlying biological factors that have such a heavy influence upon the course of life. All things considered, it seems safe to say that Sheldon’s position revolves more closely about biological determinants of behavior than does that of any other contemporary personality theorist.

Unconscious Processes

The importance of unconscious determinants of behavior is accepted by Sheldon but he is inclined to equate these determinants to underlying biological factors. Presumably if the individual knew more about the structure of his body and the biological factors at work within it, he would be more conscious of the forces that impel his behavior.

5-Characteristic Research and Research Methods

More than most personality theorists Sheldon’s formulations are embedded in empirical studies. We have already gained a rather representative view of his investigations in the process of noting how he set about the formulation and measurement of physique and temperament.

Let us deal briefly with two further studies in which he investigated mental disorder and delinquency against the background offered by somatotype measurement.

1-Physique and Mental Disorder

Constitutional psychology not only gives promise of providing new vistas of understanding in the study of normal human behavior; it also offers the possibility of understanding better, and perhaps alleviating or preventing, various psychological and social abnormalities.

After examining the state of psychiatric diagnosis he concluded that it would not be possible to approach the study of physique in relation to mental disorder.

2-Physique and Delinquency

Sheldon’s eight-year study of delinquent youth was conducted to provide a kind of background against which to compare his findings from the study of normal college youth. The investigation was carried out at the Hayden Goodwill Inn, a resident rehabilitation home for boys in Boston, Massachusetts. During the three years from 1939 to 1942 approximately four hundred young men were studied by Sheldon and his collaborators and, from this sample, two hundred were selected for a follow-up study after the war on the basis of completeness of information and clear evidence of delinquency. All of the subjects were examined by means of the Somatotype Performance Test and assigned somatotype ratings as well as ratings on the secondary components of physique.

Even though some personality theorists have chosen to dwell upon these factors, they have, in general, shown little inclination to implement the crucial biological factors. Thus we may largely credit Sheldon with reminding psychologists that the behaving human has physique, and further that this physique provides valuable clues to an underlying set of determinants, which in the end may prove quite as collaboration between biological and behavioral scientists and the growing awareness on the part of psychologists of the importance of biological factors has served to make Sheldon’s position far more acceptable today than it was a decade or so ago.

6-Evaluation

  • we may largely credit Sheldon with reminding psychologists that the behaving human has physique, and this physique provides valuable clues to an underlying set of determinants, which may prove quite as collaboration between biological and behavioral scientists and the growing awareness on the part of psychologists of the importance of biological factors has served to make Sheldon’s position far more acceptable today than it was a decade or so ago.
  • In any final evaluation of Sheldon’s theory it is important to consider the wealth of empirical studies that have been conducted by Sheldon and stimulated by his writings.
  • Ultimately the value of a theory can best be measured by its empirical impact and no one can deny that Sheldon’s findings and formulations have provoked dozens or perhaps hundreds of related studies.
  • Sheldon’s work is of assured interest to psychologists whatever its shortcomings may be it has led to findings with which the future must reckon.
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