Thursday, March 17, 2011

Traditional beliefs about bodily effects

There are many traditional beliefs about the influence of facial features, and body functioning on personality. Aristotle claimed that different facial characteristic, such as the color and texture of the skin and hair; the quality of the voice; the condition of the flesh; and the build of the body are related to certain personality characteristics. Facial features, he claimed, are the most accurate bodily indications of personality.

Through the years, the tradition that specific personality characteristics are associated with different body builds grew up. The rotund build, for example, was associated with the good “mixer”- the easy going person who gets along well with people, diplomatic, and lively. By contrast, people with third lankly builds were believed to be moody, introverted, and unsocial. As Shakespeare expressed these traditional beliefs through Caesar:

Let me have men about that are fat, sleek-headed men, and such as sleep o’nights.Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; he thinks too much, such men are dangerous.

Being able to classify people into personality types on the basis of facial features or body builds has a strong popular appeal because it provides an anchorage point for understanding and predicting behavior. As Hilgard has remarked, “if we know what to expect from fat people or from thin people or from red-headed people, then we can size up strangers and prepare ourselves to meet them on their own ground”.

Everyday observation of people reveal that there is a relationship between the body build of a person, his energy level, and his general health condition and the quality of his behavior. This has strengthened the traditional belief that there is a relationship between the body and the personality pattern.

This belief has been further strengthened by evidence from studies of atypical body builds and abnormal body functioning. Studies of the personality patterns of people with some atypical body condition, whether it be in structure or function, have revealed how close the relationship between the body condition and the personality pattern is. Even though present evidence indicates that the relationship is indirect rather than direct----in that the relationship pattern is influenced by social attitudes toward the body defect—the relationship is strong enough to justify the belief that the body plays a role of major importance in personality development.

Personal observation and traditional beliefs about physical structures and functions and theories about how the body influence are as great as Aristotle claimed centuries ago, but that the influence are of a different kind that was formerly recognized. In the following pages of this chapter, the important findings of these studies will be reported, grouped according to kind of body influences.

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