You likely know someone with a “Type A” personality – an ambitious, competitive person striving for success. Perhaps it’s how you would describe yourself.
It’s a label that has been applied to powerful, dominant people for decades. But new research suggests the Type A personality might be something of a misnomer.
Researchers from the University of Toronto in Scarborough, Canada say the term can be unhelpful and erroneous, and the way it’s usually applied represents an outdated way of thinking about personality. Here’s why you should think twice about casting yourself as Type A at your next job interview.
The birth of a myth?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Type A personalities are characterised by ambition, impatience, and competitiveness, and thought to be susceptible to stress and heart disease. (Type B, meanwhile, is defined by being relaxed, patient and having behaviour that could decrease a risk of heart disease.)
A pair of American cardiologists came up with the term in the 1950s to describe white middle-class men who had certain personality traits that made them more susceptible to coronary heart problems. (One report in 2012 in the American Journal of Public Health asserted that the research was heavily bankrolled by the cigarette industry to avoid any claims that smoking is bad for you.)
In the decades since, the term has entered the popular lexicon and people have used it as a way to place themselves into one camp or another. This binary aspect of personality – that you’re naturally either Type A or Type B – was the main finding of a 1989 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
But University of Toronto postdoctoral student Michael Wilmot wanted to test if these assumptions are still accurate today. So he and his team decided to replicate older studies and update them with more modern survey methods to see if they would produce the same results. Their findings are due to be published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.