12 julio, 2024

Differences between temperament and character

What are the differences between temperament and character?

The differences between temperament and character They are several and important, although these two concepts are often used interchangeably, especially in colloquial language.

Temperament defines the most biological and genetically determined elements on the way people are.

Instead, character refers to the association between biological factors and environmental elements that participate in shaping the personal attributes of individuals.

In this sense, it is common for both temperament and character to be used as synonyms for personality. However, neither of them completely determines the way people are.

Likewise, temperament and character do not refer to the same constructs, since each one defines specific aspects about the personal attributes of human beings.

Main differences between temperament and character

1. Innate vs. acquired

The temperament is characterized by presenting an innate base, while the character is an acquired element.

At present, there is a high consensus in affirming that the constitution of personality depends on both genetic factors and environmental factors.

Thus, in a general way, temperament can be interpreted as that part of the personality that comes from genetic and innate elements, and character, from environmental factors and the individual’s relationship with the external world.

However, it must be taken into account that the character does not refer only to the environmental elements of acquired personality. In fact, this component encompasses both genetic aspects related to temperament and environmental ones.

For this reason, it is argued that temperament is an innate and biological construct, while character implies personal aspects elaborated through the relationship between genetic components and external factors.

2. Biological vs. social

In the same sense as the previous point, temperament and character are differentiated by presenting a biological and social base, respectively.

Temperament is part of the biological dimension of people’s development. This means that it constitutes a series of attributes about the way of being, acting and behaving that belong to the genetic development of the human being.

Instead, character includes both the biological dimension and the social dimension of the person. Thus, the character can be interpreted as a modulation and modification of the individual’s temperament. This difference between temperament and character lies in their divergent origin already mentioned.

Temperament is born and develops solely through the human genome. On the other hand, the character implies the presence of a certain modification of the genetic attributes through the relationship of the individual with his environment and his development with his socializing context.

3. Genetics vs. atmosphere

The two previous differences can be included within the dichotomy that describes and explains the psychological and mental development of people: genetics and the environment.

In this sense, in the conformation of the personality of the individuals, these two elements participate.

Thus, the temperament allows to exemplify the elements of the personality that depend directly on the genetic development of the individual. Each person presents a series of genes that determine, to a certain extent, the way they are.

Genetics (temperament) forms the basis of a person’s personality. However, this does not develop only through the inherited constitution, since the environment plays an important role.

It is at this moment where the concept of character appears. It is important to bear in mind that character does not refer only to environmental or external stimuli that are involved in shaping personality.

Rather, the character defines a broad mental component that derives from the changes that the temperament undergoes through contact with the environment that the subject makes.

4. Stable vs. modifiable

Another relevant difference between temperament and character lies in their stability. That is, in its capacity for modification and adaptability to the environment.

Being caused by genetic factors, temperament is a highly stable element of people. For this reason, it constitutes the most immovable part of the way of being.

In this sense, temperament is that characteristic aspect that manifests itself identically in different situations and that does not present any type of modification over time.

On the other hand, the character encompasses a series of much more unstable and modifiable character attributes.

In fact, its conformation depends on the subject’s relationship with the environment, so depending on how it is, the character will adopt a series of determined attributes.

In short, temperament is the stable basis of personality that depends on genetics, while character is a modifiable part of the way people are that depends on context.

5. Teachable vs. not teachable

In the same sense as the previous point, temperament and character are differentiated by their degree of «educability».

Being a stable and immovable element, temperament is not educable. That is, it cannot be modified and worked to improve it.

The behavioral responses that depend on temperament are strongly involved with the genetic component of the individual, so that the intervention that can be carried out is minimal.

Instead, the opposite happens with character. This is context dependent and therefore highly teachable.

The manners, behavior patterns, learned behaviors… All these aspects constitute educated responses that are developed with the modification of temperament through the environment, that is, they are part of the person’s character.

6. Controllable vs. not controllable

As it is immovable, unchangeable and «uneducable», temperament is also a highly uncontrollable element. That is, behavioral and cognitive responses that are based on the biological aspects of the person usually occur automatically.

On the other hand, the attributes referring to the character are indeed controllable by the person, which is why the person is more or less capable of elaborating those character aspects that are more to their liking.

In general, behavioral inhibition, repression or the adoption of sensible behaviors are usually guided by character, on the other hand, the most impulsive and instinctive responses are usually subject to the person’s temperament.

7. Genotype vs. phenotype

In general, temperament and character can be differentiated in the genotype and phenotype duo that participates in the development of human beings.

In this sense, the genotype is the class of which one is a member according to the state of the internal hereditary factors of an organism, its genes and by extension its genome.

It is based on the genetic content of an organism and, as far as the individual’s personality is concerned, it is manifested through temperament.

The phenotype, on the other hand, is the class of which one is a member according to the physical qualities observable in an organism, including its morphology, physiology and behavior at all levels of description.

It constitutes the observable properties of an organism, and in the field of personality it manifests itself through character.

8. Genetic determination

The genetic determination of behavior postulates that the way of being of people is largely determined by the hereditary attributes of the human being.

In this way, genes and the human genome would be key elements in determining the personality of individuals.

These aspects are well represented through temperament, which indicates a series of attributes about the way of being that are governed solely by the genetic determination of people.

9. Intervention of personal experience and the environment

The effect of the environment and personal experience within the context is another line of research on human behavior.

These elements are not represented within the temperament, but they do acquire their maximum expression in the character.

The character shows that the genetic attributes of people can be subject to modifications and, therefore, the way of being of the subjects depends on the effects caused by environmental factors on temperament.

10. Acquisition of habits

Finally, the acquisition of habits is another aspect that allows differentiating the character of the temperament.

In fact, many investigations have shown that character is formed through the conjunction of temperament with habits learned in the environment.

Finally, the conjunction between character (temperament and learned habits) with behavior, would give rise to personality.


The Oxford Handbook of Clinical Psychology. Oxford University Press.
Sadock, B. (2010). Kaplan & Sadock pocket manual of clinical psychiatry. Barcelona: Wolters Kluwer.

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