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Type A and Type B Personality Theory

Reviewed by Psychology Today Staff

You know the "type:" So-called “Type A” personalities are hard-charging, determined to compete and to win. Combining traits such as drive and impatience, Type A was once thought to be related to heart disease—an association that has since been challenged. “Type B” was proposed as the more easygoing, tolerant personality, in contrast to Type A.

More recently, the concept of “Type D” (for “distressed”) personality has been studied by psychologists, leading to new explorations of personality-health associations.

Despite the popularity of personality-type concepts, personality scientists say that thinking in terms of distinct types is an oversimplified approach to personality.

Type A, Type B, and Type C
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Type A personality (or Type A Behavior) was originally described not by personality psychologists but by cardiologists, who thought that people who showed such personalities were at greater risk of cardiovascular disease. Type B personality was conceived as a less-intense personality type. A “Type C” was later proposed as a predictor of cancer risk. There is now ample reason to doubt that these supposed personality types are in fact correlated with disease progression.

What is Type A personality?

Type A has been described as a behavioral pattern involving impatience and a sense of time-related pressure, irritability, and a competitive drive.

Who created the concept of Type A personality?

Physicians Meyer Friedman and R.H. Rosenman originated the concept in the 1950s after reportedly observing a connection between heart disease in patients and certain personality characteristics.

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Type D
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Type D—the D stands for “distressed”—is described as a combination of being inhibited in social situations and tending to experience negative emotions. The concept of Type D is distinct from Types A, B, and C, which have been defined based on characteristics such as high or low assertiveness and hostility. But as with the other "types," researchers who have assessed traits associated with Type D are interested in their potential connections to physical health.

What is Type D personality?

Type D personality is a term for the combination of negative affectivity and social inhibition. Negative affectivity involves a tendency to experience negative states such as worry, irritability, and unhappiness. Social inhibition is gauged based on a person's agreement with statements like "I find it hard to start a conversation" and "I am a closed kind of person."

Are there problems with Type D personality characteristics?

Early research suggested a possible connection between Type D traits and poorer outcomes for those with coronary heart disease, but follow-up work by other scientists failed to find supportive evidence for that link. Some evidence suggests measures of Type D characteristics are associated with certain psychological difficulties, including symptoms of insomnia and depression.

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