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Implications of Inherent Differences in Temperament

Implications of Inherent Differences in Temperament

2 Mins
October 15, 2014

Depiction of the four humours temperament objectivism jerome kagan

Atlas Summit 2014 -- Temperament often has been treated as the most elusive, undefinable—even ineffable—of human personality traits. In fact, though, temperament has become one of the best-understood aspects of human personality thanks to the work of the Harvard psychologist Jerome Kagan.

In this presentation, Walter Donway explains what Kagan means by “temperament,” outlines the evidence for inherent temperament, and tries to give a sense of what it means to be of a given temperament. He distinguishes temperament from other components of emotional make-up, such as sense of life, and from common long-term emotional states. Donway argues that if a given temperament is inherent in each of us, it is crucial to understand and accept temperament as something that—within limits—we must accept in ourselves, our children, our romantic partners, and everyone with whom we interact. Equally crucial is to understand the scope within which temperament can be modified by experience—and ultimately by choice.


Walter Donway was a trustee of the Atlas Society at its inception and for many years. Until 2002, he was editor of Cerebrum: The Dana Forum on Brain Science for the Dana Foundation, where he was director of the Dana Press. He has published dozens of articles on the economics of health-care regulation in Private Practice, Medical World News, and Human Events. His lead op-ed article in the the Wall Street Journal, “In Defense of Decades of Greed,” exposed myths about the history of monopolies. Donway has also published articles in Newsday, Cosmopolitan, Commonweal, and Occasional Review, among other venues. He is the author of a book of poetry, Touched By Its Rays.