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2500 Years In The Making — The Development of A Temperament Assessment

Personality temperament theory has been around for hundreds of years, dating back as early as Hippocrates (although he has over the years been attributed as the first to develop a temperament theory, he actually claimed that illness was the result of an imbalance of four bodily fluids). Galen built on Hippocrates groundwork and developed a theory of “temperaments” (the Latin word that actually means “proper mix”) that included both bodily dispositions as well as behavioural and emotional systems. The list of temperament theorists includes such well known and respected theorists as Kant, Adickes, Spranger and Jung. More recently, there has been a greater evolution of temperament theories: Keirsey, Please Understand Me II; Lowry, True Colors; Berens, Understanding Yourself and Others; and, most recently, Personality Dimensions®. With the revived and growing interest in personal growth and self-understanding, particularly as it relates to building interpersonal skills and relationships, thriving in the workplace and work-life balance, it is important to understand how personality assessments have evolved.

There is some confusion about how instruments can look a lot alike but still be different. Temperament assessments share many features and attributes and have similar presentations. There are many assessments available that promote self-discovery via the medium of pencil and paper or on-line. Other related assessments are available in books. Likewise, there are several assessments available in flashcard formats or that use memory cues such as colours or hats or other indicators to promote self-discovery and long-term retention and application of this learning. This does not mean that only one tool is available in each format. Rather, there are a range of instruments available, using a variety of mediums, to convey their approach.

In the years before publishing the Personality Dimensions® system we did extensive research and results analysis to ensure that the theory itself was solidly based. The validity of the tool was demonstrated in first-tier validation studies of ongoing empirically-based tests, based on four hypothesis that were tested, analyzed and validated in a series of controlled experiments and focus groups completed by over 800 individuals across Canada. These findings were further validated by relating the feedback from Focus Groups (there were 127 Focus Groups across Canada, consisting of a mix of experts and lay people) who provided their opinions about the accuracy, clarity, effectiveness and usefulness of the tool. The Focus Group data included a numerical analysis of the elements of the Personality Dimensions® assessment itself. An ongoing program of feedback and continuous improvement is administered and analyzed by the publisher to ensure that the system continues to meet each of the established criterions.

This deliberate research is one of the key elements that sets the Personality Dimensions system apart from other temperament assessments. In developing the system we moved from a theoretical perspective into a research mode, then defined, through Focus Group feedback, the memory cues, in this case colours, that would represent each temperament. We added symbols – the question mark, the exclamation mark, the check mark and the reaching hands – to put further emphasis on what each temperament represented and then added descriptors to the colour identifiers to emphasize the traits of each and reinforce the learning. Each of these elements of the system came as a direct result of responses from the Focus Groups. Without these key people, and, of course, the dynamic duo of Lynda McKim (primary author) and the late Rob McKim (researcher), responding to the various drafts of all the materials, Personality Dimensions would not be the system that it is today.

Our research also indicated that there was a further key element in personal preferences that had not, up until that point, been addressed in other temperament models: a preference for Introversion or Extraversion. This preference for how we prefer to take in and process information, is often one of the first aspects of our personality, and our communication style, that others are aware of. Consistency and reliability analysis of the responses to the initial set of questions by the focus groups enabled us to reduce the overall number of questions in this part of the assessment to the current seven items.

In publishing Personality Dimensions we deliberately developed, and continue to evolve, a system that represents the progression of personality temperament theory. We added components that our validation studies and research indicated were key to understanding ourselves and others, and fully acknowledge and foster awareness of those theorists and models or assessments that have come before us.

When selecting the instrument that is most appropriate for you and your clients chose the one that you that feel will best meet your clients needs and are most comfortable with. Ensure that you can support the integrity of the tool – that there aren’t a lot of “I don’t think I belong here” comments from people while debriefing or in group work. It is also vitally important that the tool has demonstrated validation studies behind it, is culturally sensitive, is the result of extensive research and not the result of one persons’ thoughts, which can create unintended bias, and has been tested across a wide group of individuals from a variety of walks of life. And, my personal bias is, that the instrument used as part of career development and/or career management should provide a positive perspective, not be overly critical or negative. Do your research and choose the instrument that best suits your clients’ objectives and needs.

An empowering knowledge of self, values, strengths, stressors – identifying the “Who Am I?” cornerstone – are key to career development and on-going career management. Personality Dimensions fosters and deepens the understanding of self and others; develop the ability to communicate with and understand others more easily; improve and strengthen relationships with family, friends and co-workers. As with most temperament assessments, Personality Dimensions is usually administered in group settings, although, increasingly, it is being used in personal coaching as part of a career management program.

In the fifteen years since Personality Dimensions was first published (June, 2003) over 1,000,000 people, and counting, worldwide have a greater understanding of themselves and those they interact with as a result of exploring their own Personality Dimensions. Personality temperament instruments increase self-knowledge through a facilitated self-discovery process and will make a lasting, positive impact and help your clients along their journey of career development.



Berens, Linda V. (2010) Understanding Yourself and Others: An Introduction to the 4 Temperaments 4.0. Huntington Beach, Calif.: Telos Publications

Jung, Carl (1971) Psychological Types. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press

Keirsey, David (1998) Please Understand Me II: Temperament Character, Intelligence. Del Mar, Calif.: Prometheus Nemesis Book Company

Personality Dimensions (2003) Aurora, ON: Career/LifeSkills Resources Inc.



Denise Hughes is the Director and owner of Career/LifeSkills Resources Inc. and general editor of Personality Dimensions® materials and products. She just noticed the calendar and realized it is just past the 44th anniversary of her introduction to career and type and temperament materials. Those experiences and the expertise she gained through her years with the Guidance Centre, University of Toronto, and now with CLSR, continue to shape the direction that both Career/LifeSkills Resources and Personality Dimensions® take.


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Lucie Morillon
Lucie Morillon is the Bilingual Content & Communications Co-ordinator for CERIC. With a passion for quality content, she connects with her online communities and provides strong resources to engage members – and always encourages new ones to get involved. She identifies, creates and curates the content destined for the ContactPoint website, the weekly CareerWise newsletter and Careering magazine.

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