Try to imagine yourself in an early cave-dwelling tribe. Is there anything that you would want to know about the people you lived with? About your children as they grew in strength and abilities? About strangers that you might meet? Of course. You wouldn’t tell yourself that you were doing temperament analysis or personality assessment, but of all the same–you were.
A tribesman has to go hunting with another. Is the other honest? Will he share what we catch and kill? Can I trust him when my back is turned? Your chief or Big Man looks around and wonders–who plans well for tomorrow? For next winter? Who makes good decisions? Who is easily overcome by anger or other emotions? Who works hard? Who fritters the time away? Who is a dreamer? Who is always down to earth and practical?
We have always wanted answers to these questions, and we have always asked them, whether aloud or only in our minds. And, the important point is–these questions have always implied that people carried these qualities within themselves. We believe that we know the ways in which Joe differs from Steven, and Mary from Martha. Whether or not we follow research on temperament or personality, we do have implicit theories that influence our choice of friends, colleagues, and lovers. The only real news today is that good research suggests that we carry with us some of the foundation stones of temperament when we come into the world. I suspect our tribal ancestors took that for granted.