Temperament refers to the innate, genetic, and biological personality traits we are born with that tend to be consistent throughout life.
We tend to refer to temperament as the traits we have at birth, before environmental, experience, and ‘nurture’ factors come into play and influence who we are. This is shown in the following definition from Paris, Ricardo and Rymond (2019):
“Temperament is the innate characteristics of the infant, including mood, activity level, and emotional reactivity, noticeable soon after birth.” (Paris, Ricardo, & Rymond, 2019, p. 146)
Supposedly, our temperament stays with us through life. Below are some examples of temperamental factors we might identify in a person.
Easygoing people tend to be quite relaxed and not easily bothered or stressed by external situations or people. They often have a laid-back attitude to life and tend to take things as they come, without getting overly worried or aggressive. This temperament is often highly appreciated in high-stress environments as they are able to keep a clear head and navigate complexities calmly.
Ferris Bueller from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off has an easygoing and optimistic nature which attracts all kinds of people. He may get into sticky situations, but he never lets them ruin his mood or day.
Outgoing people are often characterized by a lively and sociable demeanor. They enjoy being around people, participating in social events, and engaging in deep conversations. They thrive when they are able to connect with others and are typically comfortable in the spotlight.
Tony Stark from Iron Man has an outgoing and flashy demeanor that draws people to him. He’s intensely sociable and isn’t shy to show off his inventions or his superhero status.
Reserved people contrast with outgoing people. They generally keep to themselves and do not readily express their emotions or thoughts unless required. They usually prefer to stay in their own space while they engage in deep thought and quiet activities. Even though they may seem distant or indifferent on the outside, they are often full of insight and deep ideas.
Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games starts out as a reserved and private person who prefers her own company. She opens up a bit more when survival forces her into a public role.
People with a calm temperament are typically peaceful, even-tempered, and not easily agitated or upset. They manage to retain a sense of tranquility and level-headedness even during tumultuous situations. This kind of demeanor allows them to think clearly, make rational decisions, and avoid unnecessary stress.
Morpheus from The Matrix remains calm and composed despite the chaos and danger around him, guiding Neo through the world of The Matrix.
Hot-tempered people are characterized by a quick and intense reaction to setbacks or provocations. They may be prone to spontaneous outbursts of anger or frustration and may struggle to control their immediate emotional reactions in challenging situations. Despite this, their reactions are typically short-lived, and they can return to their normal state rapidly.
Gordon Ramsay, the British chef and TV personality, is known for his short temper and frequent outbursts on his cooking shows.
Moody people experience frequent changes in their emotional state. They can easily swing from being happy and content, to being sad or irritated in a short span of time. Their moods can be unpredictable and their reactions can vary based on these changing moods.
Edward Cullen from Twilight is known for his intense mood swings, showing intense love and care for Bella one moment and cold, distant behavior in the next.
Cheerful people are generally characterized by their positive disposition and high levels of optimism. They usually see the brighter side of things and their sunny disposition can be infectious, often bringing joy to the people around them. They tend to laugh and smile more often than those with other temperaments.
Joy, one of the five main emotions in Pixar’s Inside Out, is the personification of cheerfulness. She always tries to keep things positive and uplift everyone’s mood.
People with a serious temperament usually have a thoughtful and earnest demeanor. They tend to focus intensively on their goals, often placing much importance on rules, order, and responsibility. Despite seeming austere, they can often be relied upon in tough situations.
Dr. Gregory House from the TV show House, M.D. has a serious demeanor while diagnosing patients. His serious nature helps him solve medical puzzles that others can’t.
Similar to easygoing, relaxed people usually remain calm and unhurried, irrespective of the external situation. They take things at their own pace and prefer to avoid stress and conflict. This easy-going demeanor can make them comfortable companions and effective leaders in high-pressure environments.
The Dude from the film The Big Lebowski is the embodiment of a relaxed attitude. He goes about life at his own pace, unfazed by the chaos around him.
Nervous people often experience high levels of unease, worry, apprehension, and fear. They might get easily flustered or overwhelmed, and are very self-conscious, often fearing the judgement or criticism of others. These feelings of nervousness can cause them to act differently, or to avoid certain situations altogether.
George McFly from Back to the Future is constantly nervous and tense, struggling with anxiety throughout the film. His nerves often hinder his ability to stand up for himself or communicate effectively.
Patient people typically exhibit tolerance and understanding under challenging circumstances. They are not easily irritated or quick to anger and can endure waiting or experiencing difficulties without showing noticeable signs of frustration or upset. This allows them to overcome obstacles in a composed and effective manner.
Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic example of a patient character. He maintains his calm and composed demeanor while battling racial prejudices and injustice.
See More: Patience Examples
In contrast, impatient people often struggle with waiting for things to happen and want everything done instantly. They can get easily agitated or restless if things do not go according to their schedule or preference. While impatience can cause stress, it can also motivate quick action and decision-making.
Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is famously impatient, wanting everything immediately and throwing tantrums when she doesn’t get her way.
Optimistic people tend to always see the brighter side of things. They believe in positive outcomes and hold a positive outlook on life, even in the face of adversity. This can boost their resilience and overall happiness, making them inspirational figures.
Forrest Gump from the movie Forrest Gump has an optimistic outlook on life despite facing numerous challenges throughout his life. His optimism influences those around him positively.
See More: Optimism Examples
Contrasting with our optimistic example above, pessimistic people tend to focus more on negatives and expect unfavourable outcomes. They often prepare for the worst and might struggle to see positive aspects in situations. While it can lead to unhappiness, pessimism can also lead to more realistic and grounded expectations.
Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh is a perennial pessimist, often expecting the worst and seldom being cheerful.
People with a bold temperament are characterized by their courage and daring nature. They are not afraid to take risks and confront challenges head on. They can inspire others with their fearlessness and are often seen as natural leaders.
Hermione Granger from Harry Potter series is bold and unafraid to take risks when it comes to standing up for what’s right or protecting her friends, despite the danger.
See More: Characteristics of Bold People
People with a shy temperament find it hard to open up to, or interact with, other people, especially those they do not know well. They typically prefer small groups and solitude and may struggle with public speaking or assertiveness. Despite their reserve, people who are shy can form very strong, deep relationships once they are comfortable with someone.
Bella Swan from Twilight is a shy introvert. She is uncomfortable with attention and is initially withdrawn when she moves to a new school, although she soon forms a deep bond with Edward Cullen.
People with a confident temperament hold a high regard for their own abilities and worth. They are often self-assured in their decisions and actions and are not easily swayed by others. Their confidence can inspire trust and respect from others, and they often step into leadership roles.
James Kirk from Star Trek is notably confident, often taking command in difficult situations. His confidence often convinces his crew to trust his judgment, even when the odds appear against them.
See More: Confidence Examples
Insecure people often experience self-doubt and uncertainty about their own value or capabilities. They tend to need constant reassurance and have a fear of being judged or rejected by others. Despite these struggles, insecurities can breed empathy and understanding for others who may be feeling similarly.
George Costanza from Seinfeld is chronically insecure, often second-guessing himself and worrying about the judgments of others, which often lands him in comedic predicaments.
Adventurous people are characterized by their openness to new experiences, risk-taking behavior, and curiosity. They are typically energetic and enjoy exploring new environments, ideas, or activities. This disposition often leads them to rich, exciting experiences, even though they may face increased risks.
Indiana Jones from the Indiana Jones series is an adventurous explorer who thrives on discoveries, often going out of his way to seek out hidden treasures and solve historical mysteries.
Cautious people prefer safety and careful consideration before making decisions or undertaking activities. They are not quick to take risks and often plan thoroughly to prevent unforeseen complications. While their caution may sometimes slow them down, it also often saves them from pitfalls and mistakes.
In the Harry Potter series, Ron Weasley is often the cautious voice urging caution against the adventurous plans of Harry and Hermione, reminding them of potential dangers and rules.
Sociable people enjoy the company of others and are often outgoing and easy to get along with. They tend to thrive in social settings, finding it easy to strike up conversations and build relationships. This ability to connect with others can make them great team members and leaders. This one overlaps with ‘extroversion’ below.
Peeta Mellark from The Hunger Games is a sociable character who relies on his ability to connect with people and gain their trust or affection, which he uses to his advantage in the games.
Introverted people like myself usually prefer spending time alone or in small groups. They tend to do a lot of introspective thinking, and often have rich inner lives with deep thoughts and ideas. While they may not be as outwardly sociable as extroverts, they often build strong, intimate relationships.
Sherlock Holmes from the Sherlock Holmes series, though a splendid detective, is quite introverted. He often prefers his own company or that of his close friend, Dr. Watson.
People with expressive temperaments show their feelings openly and dramatically. They are not afraid to display their emotions and can be highly articulate in communicating their thoughts and feelings. This can make them great artists, actors, or public speakers.
Rachel Green from Friends is quite expressive. She wears her heart on her sleeve and is not afraid to express her emotions.
Though already mentioned earlier, it’s worth noting again that reserved people are typically quiet and guarded with their feelings. They are usually introspective in nature and require personal space. They may seem distant initially, but those who take the time to understand them often find them to be thoughtful and loyal.
Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice is a prime example of a reserved character. He is not quick to show his emotions, often giving people the impression that he is proud or indifferent, though he is actually deeply emotional and thoughtful.
Even-tempered people maintain a consistent, balanced emotional state. They don’t readily get angry or overly excited, making them a calming presence in stressful environments. Their consistency can make them reliable and predictable companions, but sometimes they might come across as if they’re not very excitable.
Arthur Weasley from the Harry Potter series is a good example of an even-tempered father. Despite the challenges and dangers he faces, his disposition remains steady, providing a sense of stability to those around him.
Extroverts are outgoing, sociable people who enjoy being in the company of others. They often thrive on social engagement and are energized by interactions with people. They tend to be open and expressive, and often form rapidly numerous relationships with various people.
Joey Tribbiani from Friends is a perfect example of an extrovert. He is outgoing, loves meeting new people, is comfortable in social situations, and enjoys the company of his friends greatly.
Temperament differs from personality because it refers to a person’s fundamental, unchanging, innate moods and characteristics. It’s believed to be born inside of us, and while we can resist our base temperaments through self-control and self-awareness, it’s believed to always be there.
 Paris, J., Ricardo, A., & Rymond, D. (2019). Child Growth and Development. Santa Clarita: College of the Canyons.
 Thomas, Chess & Birch (1968). Temperament and Behavior Disorders in Children. New York: New York University Press (Source)
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]