Physique and Personality

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Margaret Kennedy Knight
Margaret Kennedy Knight (1903 – 1983)
Sir Julian Huxley
Sir Julian Huxley (1887 – 1975)
Conway Memorial Lecture
Conway Memorial Lecture
Moncure Conway photo by Edward Steichen, 1907. Courtesy of Dickinson College.
Moncure Conway photo by Edward Steichen, 1907. Courtesy of Dickinson College.
Delivered at Conway Hall 3 October 1957. Chaired by Sir Julian Huxley and presented by Margaret Knight.
Abstract

The two main researchers into correlations between physique and personality have been Kretschmer (Germany) and Sheldon (U.S.A.). Both argued for character-typologies, while insisting that these were matters of degree and predominance.

While Sheldon’s work (in the 1940s) was methodologically more up-to-date than Kretschmer’s (done in the 1920s), it broadly concurred with the latter in distinguishing between extraverted and introverted types and related physiques (though Sheldon’s typology for extraversion was more complex than Kretschmer’s).
Despite certain weaknesses in both men’s work, their researches do point to the importance of hereditary and constitutional factors in shaping behaviour. These factors are additional to environmental ones, and in fact set the limits in which the latter can operate. Also, increased awareness of constitutional factors, and therefore of the diversity of types of people, makes for greater social harmony and understanding.

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