skin colour and personality

Excellent article based on an extract from Nina Jablonski’s book “Living Colour: The Biological and Social Meaning of Skin Colour” about early ideas about the relationship between skin colour and personality.

The first scientific classification of humans, published by Carl Linnaeus in 1735, was simple and separated people into four varieties by skin colour and continent. Later, Linnaeus added that Europeans were white and “sanguine,” Asians were brown and “melancholic,” Native Americans were red and “choleric” and Africans were black and “phlegmatic”. Of course, these racist pronouncements were based on prejudice and myth and little, if any, factual information. Nevertheless, these ideas led to an intellectual foundation for racism. Immanuel Kant, was the first to formally define races and in 1785 classified people into four fixed races, which were arrayed in a hierarchy according to colour and talent. It sounds like a really interesting book on anthropology and I’ll order a copy tomorrow. I’ll try to remember to comment when I have read the full book.

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Four temperaments is a proto-psychological interpretation of the ancient medical concept of humorism and suggests that four bodily fluids affect human personality traits and behaviors. The temperaments are sanguine (pleasure-seeking and sociable), choleric (ambitious and leader-like), melancholic (introverted and thoughtful), and phlegmatic (relaxed and quiet).

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