You were born with your temperament, but your personality developed gradually. Though they have some connection, they’re quite different.
Your temperament, sometimes called disposition, refers to aspects of your personality influenced by your biology, not your experiences.
Your personality involves your thoughts, beliefs, dispositions, preferences, behaviors, and traits. Both your temperament and character influence your personality.
Temperament refers to the foundational part of your personality, says Mirela Loftus, MD, medical director for Newport Healthcare Connecticut. “It is our prevailing mood or mood pattern.”
On the other hand, personality is your whole self, including your temperament. Your personality is influenced by your temperament, which is thought to be biologically determined, along with your environment and experiences, says Loftus.
Typically, you talk about temperament when describing how an infant behaves very early.
“You would not say, ‘The baby has an introverted personality’ the same way as you wouldn’t say, ‘The teenager has a choleric temperament,”’ explains Loftus.
She provides the following examples of the four main types of temperament:
- sanguine (warm, optimistic, social)
- phlegmatic (relaxed, apathetic, slow-moving)
- melancholic (analytical, quiet, nostalgic)
- choleric (irritable, quick to react)
Temperament informs how you behave and move through the world, as does your:
- emotional responses
- energy levels
Unlike personality, temperament isn’t influenced by experience.
Temperament may have a genetic link, while personality is formed from life situations. In this sense, your temperament tends to stay the same throughout life while your personality can change.
Your personality is composed of distinguishing traits individually, and interacting with each other may dictate how you behave and react in specific situations.
Some common personality traits include:
- optimism or pessimism
- extraversion or introversion
Personality develops as you age. It typically involves elements such as your favorite color or music, whether you prefer staying home or going out, and if you mostly participate or remain quiet during work meetings.
Personality traits are often described in contrasting terms, but many people fall along a spectrum. Just because you prefer being around people doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy alone time now and then.
Temperament influences how you react and approach the world as a child. For example, how you adapt to your caregiver’s absence or how persistent you are when learning something.
A child’s reactions and interactions with their environment gradually shape their personality. They can affirm or deter particular behaviors or preferences.
“Temperament continues to affect the way we approach the world even once personality is developed since temperament is a set of inborn traits that are relatively stable and constant from birth,” explains Loftus.
Temperament can impact how you respond to certain life challenges or situations.
Someone with a choleric temperament who may have an irritable disposition, for instance, may have a more challenging time with stress at work. They may be more reactive than reflective than someone with a phlegmatic temperament.
A 2020 study of 1,239 participants ages 12 to 19 found that the personality trait neuroticism was linked to adverse mental health effects. The same research indicated that an optimistic disposition would have the opposite impact.
Temperament can also affect relationship dynamics, says Loftus. A parent with low-frustration tolerance, for example, may find it challenging to interact with a child with an intense disposition.
“This can lead to negative interactions and ultimately the development of oppositional defiant disorder or aggression,” she says.
You’re born with a particular temperament that influences how your personality develops. Your temperament is your mood and disposition, and it’s thought to be mainly based on biology.
Your personality is all of you, not just your temperament. It’s influenced by your disposition as well as your experiences and interactions.
Your temperament and character are aspects of your personality, which develop and may change with age.