Type A and Type B Personality Theory (2023)

By Dr. Saul McLeod, updated 2021

This type of personality concerns how people respond to stress. However, although its name implies a personality typology, it is more appropriately conceptualized as a trait continuum, with extremes Type-A and Type-B individuals on each end.

Type A personality is characterized by a constant feeling of working against the clock and a strong sense of competitiveness.Individuals with a Type A personality generally experience a higher stress level, hate failure and find it difficult to stop working, even when they have achieved their goals.

Type A and Type B Personality Theory (1)

Research Background

Friedman and Rosenman (both cardiologists) actually discovered the Type A behavior by accident after they realized that their waiting-room chairs needed to be reupholstered much sooner than anticipated.

When the upholsterer arrived to do the work, he carefully inspected the chairs and noted that the upholstery had worn in an unusual way: "there's something different about your patients, I've never seen anyone wear out chairs like this."

Unlike most patients, who wait patiently, the cardiac patients seemed unable to sit in their seats for long and wore out the arms of the chairs. They tended to sit on the edge of the seat and leaped up frequently.

However, the doctors initially dismissed this remark, and it was only five years later that they began their formal research.

Friedman and Rosenman (1976) labeled this behavior Type A personality. They subsequently conduced research to show that people with type A personality run a higher risk of heart disease and high blood pressure than type Bs.

Although originally called 'Type A personality' by Friedman and Rosenman it has now been conceptualized as a set of behavioral responses collectively known as Type A behavior Pattern.

Type A Behavior Pattern (TABP)

Competitiveness

Type A individuals tend to be very competitive and self-critical. They strive toward goals without feeling a sense of joy in their efforts or accomplishments.

Interrelated with this is the presence of a significant life imbalance. This is characterized by a high work involvement. Type A individuals are easily ‘wound up’ and tend to overreact. They also tend to have high blood pressure (hypertension).

Time Urgency and Impatience

Type A personalities experience a constant sense of urgency: Type A people seem to be in a constant struggle against the clock.

Often, they quickly become impatient with delays and unproductive time, schedule commitments too tightly, and try to do more than one thing at a time, such as reading while eating or watching television.

(Video) Type A Personalities vs Type B Personalities (Type D, Type T too!)

Hostility

Type A individuals tend to be easily aroused to anger or hostility, which they may or may not express overtly. Such individuals tend to see the worse in others, displaying anger, envy and a lack of compassion.

When this behavior is expressed overtly (i.e., physical behavior) it generally involves aggression and possible bullying (Forshaw, 2012). Hostility appears to be the main factor linked to heart disease and is a better predictor than the TAPB as a whole.

Type B & C Personalities

Type B personality is characterized by a relaxed, patient, and easy-going nature.Individuals with a Type B personality work steadily, enjoying achievements, but do not tend to become stress when goals are not achieved.

People with Type B personality tend to be more tolerant of others, are more relaxed than Type A individuals, more reflective, experience lower levels of anxiety and display a higher level of imagination and creativity.

Type A and Type B Personality Theory (2)

Type C personalities are detail oriented, people pleasers, passive and patient. They suppress wants, needs and feelings.

The Type C personality has difficulty expressing emotion and tends to suppress emotions, particularly negative ones such as anger. This means such individual also display 'pathological niceness,' conflict avoidance, high social desirability, over compliance and patience.

Empirical Research

Friedman & Rosenman (1976) conducted a longitudinal study to test their hypothesis that Type A personality could predict incidents of heart disease. The Western Collaborative Group Study followed 3154 healthy men, aged between thirty-nine and fifty-nine for eight and a half years.

Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire.

Examples of questions asked by Friedman & Rosenman:

(Video) Type A & Type B Personalities Explained

  • Do you feel guilty if you use spare time to relax?
  • Do you need to win in order to derive enjoyment from games and sports?
  • Do you generally move, walk and eat rapidly?
  • Do you often try to do more than one thing at a time?
  • From their responses, and from their manner, each participant was put into one of two groups:

    Type A behavior: competitive, ambitious, impatient, aggressive, fast talking.

    Type B behavior: relaxed, non-competitive.

    According to the results of the questionnaire 1589 individuals were classified as Type A personalities, and 1565 Type B.

    Type A and Type B Personality Theory (3)

    Findings

    The researchers found that more than twice as many Type A people as Type B people developed coronary heart disease. When the figures were adjusted for smoking, lifestyle, etc. it still emerged that Type A people were nearly twice as likely to develop heart disease as Type B people.

    For example, eight years later 257 of the participants had developed coronary heart disease. By the end of the study, 70% of the men who had developed coronary heart disease (CHD) were Type A personalities.

    Type A and Type B Personality Theory (4)

    The Type A personality types behavior makes them more prone to stress-related illnesses such as CHD, raised blood pressure, etc.

    Such people are more likely to have their ”flight or fight” response set off by things in their environment.

    As a result, they are more likely to have the stress hormones present, which over a long period of time leads to a range of stress-related illnesses.

    Research Evaluation

    Limitations of the study involve problems with external validity. Because the study used an all male sample it is unknown if the results could be generalized to a female population, who have different ways to deal with stress and might be less vulnerable.

    Studies carried out on women have not shown such a major difference between Type A and Type B and subsequent health. This may suggest that different coping strategies are just as important as personality.

    The study was able to control for other important variables, such as smoking and lifestyle. This is good as it makes it less likely that such extraneous variables could confound the results of the study.

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    The study does not show which trait of personality type A leads to CHD. Matthew and Haynes (1996) found that hostility was most associated with CHD.

    Dembroski et al. (1989) reanalysed the results of the study and found that ratings on hostility were good predictors of CHD.The participants of the original study were followed up by Carmelli (1991) and she found a very high rate of death caused by CHD in the participants with high hostility scores.

    Theoretical Evaluation

    However, there are a number of problems with the type A and B approach. Such approaches have been criticized for attempting to describe complex human experiences within narrowly defined parameters. Many people may not fit easily into a type A or B person. Also, in individualist cultures, men are socialised to display Type A behaviour.

    A longitudinal study carried out by Ragland and Brand (1988) found that as predicted by Friedman Type A men were more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease. Interestingly, though, in a follow up to their study, they found that of the men who survived coronary events Type A men died at a rate much lower than type B men.

    We are not sure type A or type B we tend to vary along the continuum depending on the circumstances and the situation we are in.Some individual with type A personality are driven and well-balanced individuals unlikely to develop CHD while some type Bs are in fact suppressing their hostility and their ambitions, these people are likely to develop CHD despite being classified as type B.

    The major problem with the Type A and Type B theory is actually determining which factors are influencing coronary heart disease. Some research (e.g., Johnston, 1993) has concentrated on hostility, arguing that the Type A behavior pattern is characterized by underlying hostility which is a major factor leading to coronary heart disease.

    Other research has investigated the way that type A people experience and cope with stress, which is the major factor leading to coronary heart disease. It would seem that a much more sophisticated model is needed to predict coronary heart disease than Friedman and Rosenman's Type A & Type B approach. Indeed, the personality type A could be the result of prolonged exposure stress.

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    How to reference this article:

    McLeod, S. A. (2017). Type A personality. Simply Psychology. www.simplypsychology.org/personality-a.html

    APA Style References

    Carmelli, D., Dame, A., Swan, G., & Rosenman, R. (1991). Long-term changes in Type A behavior: A 27-year follow-up of the Western Collaborative Group Study. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 14(6), 593-606.

    Dembroski, T. M., MacDougall, J. M., Costa, P. T., & Grandits, G. A. (1989). Components of hostility as predictors of sudden death and myocardial infarction in the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial. Psychosomatic Medicine.

    Forshaw, M., & Sheffield, D. (Eds.). (2012). Health psychology in action. John Wiley & Sons.

    Johnston, D. W. (1993). The current status of the coronary prone behavior pattern. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 86(7), 406.

    Ragland, D. R., & Brand, R. J. (1988). Coronary heart disease mortality in the Western Collaborative Group Study. Follow-up experience of 22 years. American Journal of Epidemiology, 127(3), 462-475.

    (Video) Personality series(Type A & B) |DR.KAVITHA RAJARAM |PSYCHOLOGY TAMIL

    Rosenman, R. H., Brand, R. J., Sholtz, R. I., & Friedman, M. (1976). Multivariate prediction of coronary heart disease during 8.5 year follow-up in the Western Collaborative Group Study. The American Journal of Cardiology, 37(6), 903-910.

    Further Information

    Personality TheoriesMinnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI)Big Five PersonalityThe body's response to stressStress and the immune systemType A Personality TestJournal Article - The Personality Assessment System as A Conceptual Framework for the Type A Coronary-Prone behavior Pattern Journal Article - Evaluation of Type A personality

    Download this article as a PDF

    How to reference this article:

    How to reference this article:

    McLeod, S. A. (2017). Type A personality. Simply Psychology. www.simplypsychology.org/personality-a.html

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    FAQs

    What is a Type A personality in psychology? ›

    The phrase "Type A" refers to a pattern of behavior and personality associated with high achievement, competitiveness, and impatience, among other characteristics. In particular, the positive traits of a Type A personality include: Self-control. Motivation to achieve results.

    Who developed Type A and B personality? ›

    Type A and type B personality theory was created by a pair of cardiologists. In the 1950s, Meyer Friedman and RH Rosenman were researching the possible causes of coronary disease.

    What is true about Type A and Type B behavior patterns? ›

    Key Differences Between Type A and Type B Personality

    Type A personality is one which is stress-prone, in a hurry, impatient and fast in whatever they do. Type B personality is one which is less stress-prone patient, relaxed, easy-going and lacks time-urgency. Type A individuals tend to be sensitive and proactive.

    What are Type A and Type B personalities list characteristics of each? ›

    People with Type A personality traits are aggressive, ambitious, controlling, highly competitive, preoccupied with status, workaholics, hostile, and lack patience. People with Type B personality traits are relaxed, less stressed, flexible, emotional and expressive, and have a laid-back attitude.

    What is Type B personality in psychology? ›

    Type B personalities can be generally summarised as; easy going, relaxed and highly-flexible. Generally taking a much more carefree approach and wider philosophical view of themselves, work/life balance and other traits which make them less stressed and more widely appreciated when compared to Type A personalities.

    What is Type B personality disorder? ›

    Cluster B personality disorders are characterized by dramatic, overly emotional or unpredictable thinking or behavior. They include antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder.

    Where did Type A and Type B come from? ›

    In other words, the cardiologists argued that harried, goal-oriented people got heart attacks. Two years later, at the urging of a public health director, they slimmed down their terminology from “overt behavior pattern A” and “overt behavior pattern B” to Type A and Type B.

    Where does Type A and B come from? ›

    Type A vs.

    The concept of Type A and Type B personality types were first introduced during the 1950s by cardiologists Rosenman and Friedman, who were interested in how an individual's personality might serve as a predictor for heart disease later in life.

    Are Type B personalities lazy? ›

    A type B personality is basically the opposite of type A. People with type B personality are usually described as relaxed, easy-going and flexible. Some think that those with type B personality are lazy when, in reality, they just have a more carefree approach to life than the goal-driven type As.

    Can a Type A and Type B person be together? ›

    It's easy to assume their contrasting personalities would make a relationship between a Type A and Type B impossible. However, the reality is that sometimes, opposites attract and balance each other out. There can be many benefits of a Type A dating a Type B instead of a Type A dating another Type A.

    What are the traits of A and B? ›

    In this hypothesis, personalities that are more competitive, highly organized, ambitious, impatient, highly aware of time management, or aggressive are labeled Type A, while more relaxed, "receptive", less "neurotic" and "frantic" personalities are labeled Type B.

    Are Type A or Type B personalities more successful? ›

    Superior performance in school: A 2019 study found that type A personality college students scored higher on academic achievement tests compared to type B personality students. Researchers note that this may be because type A folks are associated with being hardworking, self-motivated, and goal-driven.

    What are examples of Type A personality? ›

    What are some traits of a type A personality?
    • tend to multitask.
    • be competitive.
    • have a lot of ambition.
    • be very organized.
    • dislike wasting time.
    • feel impatient or irritated when delayed.
    • spend much of your time focused on work.
    • be highly focused on your goals.
    Nov 9, 2021

    What is the best example of a Type B personality? ›

    Like Type A personalities, Type B personality characteristics can also vary by individual. The best example of Type B personality is someone who is: Enthusiastic and fun-loving. Persuasive.

    What is an A type personality female? ›

    Type A women tend to show greater autonomic arousal to laboratory stressors as well as greater time urgency and speed, more goal directedness, a preference to work alone under stress conditions, and more competitiveness/aggressiveness than Type B women.

    What motivates a Type B personality? ›

    Since contentment is important to a Type B personality, incentives like more freedom, more time off, or a change in job duties may be more appealing. Type B personalities also work best in teams or high-interaction positions where they can be social and put their friendliness to work.

    Are Type B people happier? ›

    Type B, synonymous with laid-back and carefree, was actually the personality type most sought-after. Freidman and Rosenman's research suggested that Type B personalities would ultimately find greater happiness and fulfillment in their lives.

    Are Type A and Type B personalities real? ›

    The bottom line is that psychologists today pay little attention to Type A and Type B designations and many take it a step further to say the psychometric tests used to identify these traits may be reliable, but not valid as a personality construct.

    What is Type C personality traits? ›

    What is a C Type Personality? C Type Personality Styles, based on DISC Theory by Dr. Marston, are accurate, precise, detail-oriented, and conscientious. They think analytically and systematically, and carefully make decisions with plenty of research and information to back it up.

    What is Type A personality example? ›

    Some individuals are more inclined to have Type A personality traits, such as being impatient, extremely organized, and highly driven. But one's environment plays a significant role in how these people behave. The more stressful the environment is, the more stressed the individuals.

    What is a Type C personality in psychology? ›

    The type C personality can be better described as someone who thrives on being accurate, rational and applying logic to everything they do. They can however also struggle to emote their feelings and hold a lot in when things go awry, preferring to to be less assertive and be more cooperative in nature.

    What is Type C and Type D personality? ›

    D-types are generally outspoken and direct when addressing others, while C-types tend to be more reserved. However, both tend to prefer direct, clear, objective communication. D-types should focus on presenting information in an open and detailed way, while C-types should vocalize their thoughts and ideas.

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