William Sheldon was born in Rhode Island on Saturday, 19th November, 1898. William and Mame, Sheldon’s parents, were relatively poor, living on farm produce and game meat but they lived a full life by interacting with nature and a having a love for learning.
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Sheldon attended a local school with his sister, Kate, his brother, Israel and friends, and he later attended Warwick High School. He graduated in the year 1915, after which he joined Brown University. After America entered the First World War, he was accredited a second lieutenant in a company for machine guns. He was given his degree in absentia in the year 1919. He later took his Ph. D in psychology, under L.L. Thurstone, in the University of Chicago.
He later held posts in several U.S. Universities where he conducted research and taught psychology. He committed his professional life to a study of personality and dispositions. Dr. Sheldon climaxed his study in the 1940’s when he found out that there were three main personality traits: Cerebrotonia, Viscerotonia and Somatotonia.
Based on the research he conducted, he also believed that the stated personality traits were directly related to the body types of humans that he gave the names Endomorphy, Mesomorphy and Ectomorphy. He outlined a theory that depicts the relationship between the human personality traits and the human body types. He died in Massachusetts in the year 1977 (“William Sheldon” 1).
As stated earlier, Dr. Sheldon conducted research to determine if there was a relationship between human personality and physique. In his study, he labeled the basic human dispositions as Viscerotonia, Somatotonia and Cerebrotonia. He established that uttermost Viscerotonia could be linked to individuals who love comfort and resting.
Thus, he saw that extreme Viscerotonics were outgoing and had good eating habits. He also found out that Somatonia could be tied to individuals who are physically aggressive and self-assured. He also established that extremum Somatotonics are aware of their physical abilities. They like competing physically and they normally succeed in such competitions. Lastly, he established that people with high levels of cerebrotonia could be associated with a marked requirement for secrecy.
Cerbrotonics, therefore, tend to be restrained socially and having a high degree of self awareness. After a careful study in these temperaments, he established that temperaments and body types were strongly correlated. He thus showed that each of the three types of temperaments he defined could be associated with a corresponding physique.
The physiques were attributed to the variety of the temperaments and thus differences in the dispositions of people were believed to be the cause of differences in the physical build of the bodies of people. Before discussing details about this interrelationship, let us have a look at the different types of physiques that Sheldon defined (Kazlev 1).
Dr. Sheldon conducted extensive research by examining photographs of scantily dressed men to establish the origin of human physique differences. He discovered that differences in human physique were attributable to three basic elements and hypothesized a relationship of these elements with embryonic layers; the ectoderm, the endoderm and the mesoderm (Kazlev 1). Consequently, he named the elements affecting human physique as Endomorphy, Mesomorphy and Ectomorphy.
He quantified the degree of the contribution of each of these elements to human physique and found out that each had a specific focus that, in turn, had impact on human physique. He established that Endomorphy was focused on the stomach and the digestive system, and that Mesomorphy was focused with the circulatory system and the muscular system.
Finally, he established that Ectomorphy was focused on the brain and the nervous system. He thus recognized that all human beings have similar systems but are different in the way their bodies use the stated resources depending on the personalities that these people have.
This, in turn, leads to development of different physiques by different people. This theory suggests that personality traits can be drawn from physiques.
Extreme Endomorphs are normally Viscerotonic, Extreme Mesomorphs are Somatotonic and Extreme Ectomorphs are, under normal circumstances, Cerebrotonic (Hugh 1). From this discussion, it is apparent that Viscerotonic people tend to have plumpness, Sematotonic people tend to be muscular and Cerebrotonic people tend to have a balanced build due to brain activity (Hugh 1).
Much of the research he conducted went undocumented and, thus, he is practically forgotten but the research left a hallmark in the field of psychology. His theory is in conformance with theories outlined by other theorists. Such theories to which his theory agrees is the works of Alexander Thomas and Stella Chess, and the Tripartite Soul as discovered by ancient philosophers like Plato, Socrates, Shakespeare, etc.
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It is common knowledge that Plato, the documenter of the works of Socrates who was also his pupil and friend, admitted that the psychology of humans is made up of three faces. These are Wisdom-Rationality, Spirited-Will and Appetite-Desire (Hugh 1). A close examination of what the three faces entail reveals a lot in common with the theory developed by Dr. Sheldon.
Kazlev, Alan. “William Sheldon Somatotypes.” 2004- April 26. Web.
Psychology Index. “William Sheldon.” 2008. Web.
Hugh, Tredennick. “A Forgotten Giant of American Psychology.” 2006. Web.