What is… type A personality

psychology word graphic in the shape of a brain

GDJ on Pixabay

In this series, I dig a little deeper into the meaning of psychological terms.

This week’s term: Type A personality

The first question that popped into my mind when I thought of delving into this  topic was are there other letters?  Because you only ever seem to hear about type A.  So let’s get to it.

Type A and its opposite type B were first proposed by two cardiologists, Drs. Friedman and Rosenman, in the 1950’s to predict the risk of developing heart disease.  They determined that type A personalities had a higher risk for cardiovascular disease.  However, this finding was based on a sample of middle-aged men, and it was later learned that there was influence from the tobacco industry to support any findings that distracted from the clearly emerging effect of tobacco on health.  Damn they were slimy buggers.

According to Wikipedia, type A describes people who are competitive, highly organized, outgoing, impatient, anxious, and highly concerned with time management.  These people are often workaholics and experience high levels of work-related stress.  They tend to be impatient, impulsive, and quick to anger.

Type B personalities are defined less by what they are and more by what they aren’t; they’re the opposite of type A.  They tend to have lower stress level and are less competitive and more tolerant.  They enjoy exploring ideas and may be more likely to work in creative fields.

Another lettered personality type was later identified in the field of medical psychology, the type D (distressed).  According to Wikipedia, this includes a combination of negative affectivity (e.g. worry, irritability) and social inhibition.  Type D’s tend to keep their negative thoughts to themselves due to fear they may be rejected by others.  Some studies have found a correlation between type D and worse cardiac outcomes, although these findings have been inconsistent.

Type A/B personalities can be measured using the Jenkins Activity Survey.  A modified online version is available here.  Scores range from 35 (highly type A) to 380 (highly type B).  I scored a 204, with my tendency to be organized and always on time pushing me toward the type A side, even though I feel like overall I’m a very different person than the picture painted with the type A personality .

Type D personalities can be measured using the DS14 Standard Assessment of Negative Affectivity, Social Inhibition, and Type D Personality.  I couldn’t find an easy online version that would spit a score out for you, but I did find a version here that involves doing some addition.  I scored sufficiently high on both negative affectivity and social inhibition to be considered a type D personality, but then again the answers to a lot of the questions would have been quite different if I was answering them while not under the influence of depression.

To me it seems a bit ridiculous to think that we can classify everyone into 2 (or perhaps 3) personality types.  And while type A may capture a certain type of individual reasonably well, it doesn’t seem nuanced enough to separate out those who exhibit only a few type A characteristics but exhibit them quite strongly.  This was the first time I’d ever really done any looking into type A personalities, and I had no idea that they were first proposed by cardiologists and that their development was promoted by the tobacco industry.  Given what I’ve learned, I’m not particularly inclined to buy into this typology.

Do you think you fall into one of these personality types?

 

Sources:

You can find the rest of my What Is series here.

11 thoughts on “What is… type A personality

  1. Meg says:

    I got 13 and 13 points on the type-D test. Apparently, you and I are neurotic! 😀 I had no clue there was a type-D.

    On the type-A and type-B, I took the test a while back, and I’m split down the middle. I’m driven but not overly so. I like a leisurely lifestyle, but I’m always working toward my goals at the same time.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. DV says:

    Any time I’ve done personality tests (or even multiple choice quizzes in women’s mags for that matter) I seem to fall squarely between types on many dimensions, because I’m “sometimes X” and “sometimes Y”. Plus, I can clearly see how my life experiences especially the negative ones have shifted my reponses from what they would have been in the past so I don’t think it’s accurate to call them personality traits which implies some sort of innate or lifelong tendencies. At best they can tell you a tiny bit about where you’re at right at this point in time in comparison with other people, but I’m skeptical about more than that.

    Liked by 1 person

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