In detail

The unknown personality theories of Gregorio Marañón

The unknown personality theories of Gregorio Marañón

From the beginning of time, man has wanted to know himself and others, using multiple strategies, some of them with more positive results than others.


  • 1 Character vs. constitution, historical background
  • 2 Hippocratic medicine and background in the work of Marañón
  • 3 The German school
  • 4 Italian school
  • 5 Typological studies of Gregorio Marañón
  • 6 The evolution of the constitution
  • 7 The evolution and variability of sexual characteristics
  • 8 Conclusions

Character vs. constitution, historical background

Trying to guess the character through the typology or constitution of people is not one of the oldest sciences we know, on the contrary, we only have to go back to the early twentieth century. But other techniques had been tried before, many more years ago, Hippocrates studied our internal body composition and divided it into four basic elements or moods, whose proportion determined the human temperament. And not so anciently, when trying to find out the personality by looking at the facial features, or even checking the shape and structure of the skull.

Be that as it may, We have always been interested in knowing how we are. Perhaps the question is why? Why this constant interest in self-knowledge? Maybe we thought that in this way we could get to better understand our world, or maybe this knowledge will provide us with security by giving us a feeling of "control" towards our surroundings, or simply out of curiosity, a quality deeply rooted in man.

Gregorio Marañón, the important Spanish doctor and neurologist, did a very particular (and now obsolete) analysis of human constitutions, in turn relating them to the endocrine system that he knew so well, to give a scientific foundation to these classical theories.

Hippocratic medicine and background in the work of Marañón

As we have already said, the foundations of contemporary constitutionalist theories come from the Greek physician Hippocrates (460-370 BC), considered the father of medicine. Based on an earlier philosopher, Empédocles, he thought that human beings arise from the combination of four elements (air, earth, fire and water), represented in the form of four moods (blood, black bile, yellow bile and phlegm). Hippocrates observed the dependence of these four moods in people's temperament and made a classification of people based on the predominance of these moods: a person with a temper blood meant that it was determined by the predominance of blood, in the phlegmatic Phlegm predominated, the type melancholic It was characterized by the greater presence of black bile, and temperament choleric It was the one in which yellow bile predominated.

Galen (129-199), a Roman doctor, related the different moods with the temperament of the people, and thought that they were the cause of the diseases.

It was in the Greek era when the first attempts to classify individuals according to their constitution appeared, known as the "Constitutionalist Theories of Personality."

The 4 types of human temperament

German school

Ernst Kretschmer, German neurologist and psychiatrist, was an author who caused a great development in the typology of the constitution in the early twentieth century. He proposed three fundamental classes of body morphology: pyknic With a medium height, wide face, strong neck and bulging thorax, the athletic with a height above average, strong shoulders and muscular neck and the asthenic or leptosomatic rather thin, slender, with angular features and dry and anemic skin. Each of these physical aspects related them to different psychological characteristics.

The German school had a great impact on the studies of Gregorio Marañón. Kretschmer already pointed out that each of these body structures is based on a endocrine formula unitary, a unique chemical structure, from which the individuality of man, both bodily and psychic, is a product.

Italian school

Another school of great importance in the investigations of Marañón was the Italian with Viola and Pende. Viola is based on anthropometric descriptions, including physiological aspects of the individual. Pende collects Viola's idea that metabolic processes are important to differentiate the human temperament and contributed idea of ​​the existence of a certain association between morphological and metabolic habit, therefore including the endocrine system in the constitutionalist study.

Later Eysenk He defined three types of personality dimensions: extroversion-introversion, emotional stability (neurotization) and psychoticism. And it orders the different types of personality by grouping them according to the classic characteristic types indicated by the Greek doctrine: melancholic, choleric, phlegmatic and blood, according to the opposite poles of stability-instability and extroversion-introversion. In this way it is indicated that the hypocratic and galenic institutions were not so wrong, and that the moods Organics play an important role in determining the different types of personality, in addition it is currently known that one of the most important contents of those moods They are hormones.

Typological studies of Gregorio Marañón

In the past, the important influence of hormones on behavior was known, which is why it was expected that the endocrine system would be one of the main factors in the foundation of constitutionalist theories in human temperamental tendencies.

For Marañón the constitution is not a rigid concept, but "elastic", modifiable to some extent by the influences of the environment. In his book "Endocrine Gynecology" he already talks about trends of constitution, summarizing it in the phrase: "the constitution, then, marks a tendency, but does not impose a behavior".

In accordance with his endocrinological theory, the general morphology of the human figure will, in large part, be conditioned by the endocrine system. The hormones are closely related to the nervous system and act in two ways from the clinical point of view: the hormones of the endocrine gland fulfill a specific function, but on the other hand the hormones of all the glands act together regulating the great processes of life: growth, metabolism and sexuality.

These same hormones, therefore, act on neuromuscular excitability, on affectivity and on the psychic rhythm, and largely shape the person's temperament.

It may interest you: Hormones and sexual behavior: difference between men and women

Typological classification in men

Marañón was not a professional typologist, but he describes a series of points at which the clinician should look to make a general assessment of morphology. Those points are the following: size, muscle development, sexual character development, fat distribution, hair and eye color, and skin hue.

He makes a classification based on the Kretschmerian ideas, which are published in his book "Manual of endocrine diseases and metabolism" in 1939. On the one hand, he classifies the normal constitutions and on the other the abnormal or dysplastic constitutions.

Within the normal constitutions, it makes a division of three types:

  • Hypoplastic characterized by its general smallness and its infantile proportions.
  • Asthenic with a predominance of longitudinal diameters, graceful skeleton, flaccid muscles, narrow shoulders and a flat and narrow chest.
  • Pyknic with predominance of horizontal structures and features opposite to asthenic.

On the other hand, it defines a less frequent group of typologies that he calls abnormal constitutions, dividing them into:

  • Gigantoid with an excessive size and excessive robustness of the reliefs of the skeleton in the trunk and in the limbs.
  • Infant or Dwarf It is one in which excessive smallness of size predominates with a corresponding infantile state, in short, an exaggerated form of the hypoplastic constitution.
  • Eunucoid dysplasia it is one in which the features of hypogenitalism predominate, great length of lower limbs, with a slight tendency to genu-valgum, predominance of the width of the pelvis over the width of the shoulders, chin retracted, tendency to dolichocephaly and greasing of the lower half of the body, with little development of secondary sexual characters.
  • Hypergenital with a tendency to a small length of the lower limbs and short stature, but with the normally developed trunk and head, strong skeleton and musculature, with great development of secondary sexual characteristics.

Typological classification in women according to Marañón

Marañón makes a particular analysis of female typologies, since he says that the morphological types admitted so far create difficulties in classifying women, because in their opinion they are "types in evolution, not stable," as it is the male

For this reason and based on that character of its evolution, Marañón designates the constitutional types of women with the titles of constitution I, II and III.

  • Type I corresponds to the childish They are women of short stature, childish proportions, pointed hands and eternally graceful and childish features. Very white skin, sometimes with lanugo on forearms, legs and back, not to be confused with intersex hair. It has a childish voice, normal libido and a low and late eroticism (orgasm). His psychology is childish and suggestible.
  • Type II is he asthenic or also call it medium or pure female, is the prototype of femininity. They are medium-sized women with very feminine proportions (with large pelvic width), female voice, normal libido, great maternal instinct, difficult and late eroticism. Regular and abundant rule. Great conceptional capacity. They have a very feminine psychology, with sensitivity, emotion and tendency to narcissism.
  • Type III or Picnic, also called intersexual It corresponds to women of medium or high stature, with robust proportions, bony hands, great thoracic development (especially in relation to pelvic development), with a tendency to accumulate fat in this part of the body. Less thin skin, tendency to hair on trunk, limbs and face. Low type voice (contralto), energetic libido with great capacity for orgasm. Its rules tend to be scarce. Little conceptional aptitude and diminished maternal instinct. They have a determined psychology, of viriloid accents, with a tendency to act outside the home.

For Gregorio Marañón the sexual life of women will be conditioned by their previous sexual constitution. Analyze the sexual instincts, homologizing them with the sexual characteristics of the woman, such as sexual attraction and orgasm. The latter describes it as being late and not constant in women, while it would be early and mandatory in men. Stresses that the woman does not need orgasm to fulfill her procreative function (the male does). This claim by Marañón was then interpreted as the frigidity was physiological in women, causing great protests. But one truth still stands: an anorganic male is sterile, while a female is not. Marañón had the courage to say it.

The evolution of the constitution

Marañón poses the problem of the evolutionary dimension of the constitution, the organism evolves and with it also the temperament. His theory is based on the following: if morphology and temperament depend largely on the function of the internal secretion glands (non-fixed factors), to the extent that they vary by the normal course of the individual's evolution or by pathological influences, will result in transformations of both the morphology of the person and their temperament.

From a general point of view, all individuals will evolve morphologically the same, from the hypoplastic to the asthenic and from the asthenic to the picnic ("happiness curve"). At the same time, from a sexual point of view, he attributes the asthenic constitution as the woman's own and that of the male one. This Marañón sexual distinction deduces it from the general evolutionary, since femininity represents an intermediate phase of evolution and is therefore of a youthful tone.

It also adds a point to this theory: when the morphological types are very defined, when the hypoplastic, asthenic or pycnic features are very marked, these subjects will maintain throughout life the great general line they possessed. But in most human beings there is the evolution, albeit faint, of the three types through age.

At the same time, the initially concentrated, arbitrary and rebellious temperament of the early years also evolves towards a more conciliatory temperament, with more conservative inclinations of adult man.

On the other hand, in women, defined by Marañón as an intermediate organism between children and men, their evolution will be different but at the same time very explicit. She will pass, both in her constitution and in her temperament, from a pubertal asthenia during the thirty to thirty-five years that sexual life lasts, to a clear virilization in the climacteric. Man, on the other hand, considered as a more fixed, terminal stage, evolution conserves through the inevitable changes, much more permanent, the essential features of his personality. That is why in women it is more difficult than in men to couple morphology to known constitutional types. Constitution and sex are thus in intimate relationship.

The evolution and variability of sexual characters

For cashew the masculine and the feminine are not strictly opposite values, but successive degrees of the development of a single function. He finds in Darwin the origin of this thought, for him there is a general theory of biological evolution, but it is superimposed on a parallel evolution of sex, which is necessary for reproduction and therefore for Darwinian evolution to be possible. Marañón says that the features of sexuality, sexual behaviors and biotypes change throughout life. He discovers that two intersex endocrine crises occur at the time of male puberty and female climacteric, which is why he calls both critical age.

In male puberty, before reaching full virility, the adolescent goes through a forced time of femininity. When he reaches thirteen or fourteen he begins an outline of femininity that prints his stamp on the morphology and psychology of the boy. A few years later, around sixteen or seventeen, the definitive virility emerges. Today we know the relative increase of estrogens in this phase, but Marañón only saw the external features: the boy's feminoid tendency before becoming a man, his sexual tendencies not yet oriented and his homosexual games with schoolmates.

None of this takes place in female puberty, since it is passed from girl to woman in a gradual non-intersexual transition. The woman wakes slowly and gently and continuously in the girl. But instead, when arriving at the climacteric, a clear virile tendency appears in the mature woman, a physiological step from all female to male. It is known today that ovarian androgens increase that accumulate in the peripheral circulation causing very common viriloid tendencies in women of this age.

There is thus, according to Marañón, two critical ages, that of men in puberty and that of women in the climacteric. On the other hand, female puberty and male andropause would be smooth transitions, one upon sexual awakening and the other on dulling, both without conflict.


The historical antecedents of the work of Gregorio Marañón are found fundamentally in the German and Italian schools, which incline him to approach the subject of personality with the study of the hormonal implication in its components. According to Marañón, the endocrine gland is the one that most influences the temperament and personality of the individual.

There is an evolutionary dimension in the constitution and the human temperament, which is different between men and women. In the male sex, this morphological evolution is quite progressive until it reaches a rather picnical final typology, while in the female sex the evolution is much more abrupt when reaching menopause, maintaining until then a greater stability in its characters.

Gregorio Marañón did a great job of constitutional study, but they are currently obsolete. Even so, it determined a (certainly important) part in the future study of human psychology.

As for the classification he makes on women, taking into account the time in which Gregorio Marañón lived, he was surely influenced by the cultural conception of women at that time. Women until relatively recently, here in Spain, had no social power and their function was reduced to having children and devoting themselves to caring for them as well as the home. In the study conducted by Marañón this differentiating concept of women versus men is reflected. Perhaps that is why to date there had not even been previous studies on them.


  • Alejandra Ferrándiz Lloret "The psychology of Gregorio Marañón". Editorial of the Complutense University of Madrid. Madrid 1982. Doctoral thesis 156/84.
  • Gregorio Marañón Foundation. "Chronology of Gregorio Marañón".
  • Virgili Ibarz. "Typological personality descriptions". History and Life.
  • Llusiá Bottle, A. Fernández de Molina. "The Evolution of Sexuality and Intersex States". Gregorio Marañón Foundation. Ediciones Diaz de Santos, S.A. 1998.
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