Type A & B Personalities

Behavioral Patterns of Type A and Type B Personalities

Most of us know people, perhaps even ourselves, who frequently experience feelings of impatience when waiting in line at the bank or the grocery store or who find it extremely difficult to find time for a haircut or who gulp down their food.

These people feel they simply do not have enough time in the day to complete all the tasks that “must” be accomplished, yet they find themselves taking on more responsibilities. These behaviors characterize persons with Type A behavior or personality pattern.

What is Type A Personality Pattern?
  • The Type A personality pattern (also called coronary prone behavior) is a collection of behaviors that include impatience and a sense of urgency about accomplishing most tasks. It includes such characteristics as time urgency, impatience, hard drivenness, aggressiveness, ambitiousness, competitiveness, achievement-oriented behavior and sometimes hostility toward others, especially those who “get in the way”. (Cooper, Detre, & Weiss, 1981).

Persons with Type A personality lead fast-paced lives; they speak quickly, walk quickly, eat quickly—all in an attempt to accomplish as much as possible in as little time as possible. By comparison, Type B personalities are relaxed and easygoing, less concerned with the pressure of success (but are not lazy), and generally lead less hectic lives.

Persons who display the Type A behavior pattern are at approximately twice the risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD) than are those individuals termed Type B (Rosenman et al., 1975) not displaying the pattern.

Important Hints! 
  • The term coronary heart disease (CHD) refers to cardiac disease resulting from myocardial ischemia, in which insufficient oxygen reaches the heart.
  • Clinical problems associated with CHD often include angina pectoris (chest pain), sudden arrhythmic death (ventricular fibrillation), and myocardial infarction (blockage of a blood vessel in the heart, with subsequent death of heart tissue).
  • Coronary heart disease is a major cause of death in our culture.

This information is resourced from the textbook, Health Psychology: A Psychobiological Perspective, by Michael Feuerstein et al.

Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman’s Theory

The Type A and Type B stress theory was proposed in the 1950s by two cardiologists, Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman, to explain why patients with coronary problem and noncoronary patients seemed to react differently to stress.

Careful observation led Friedman and Rosenman to describe the type A behavior pattern as “an action-emotion complex that can be observed in any person who is aggressively involved in a chronic, incessant struggle to achieve more and more in less and less time, and if required to do so, against the opposing efforts of other things and other persons.”

Subsequent observation suggests that the Type A personality pattern is a stressful one and made a person prone to coronary disease. Persons with a Type A personality are extremely competitive and impatient and always seem to strive to accomplish more than is feasible. They are always rushed and undertake multiple tasks on a regular basis.

Type A behavior also includes difficulty in controlling anger and aggression, which usually persist beneath the surface and are expressed in the form of fist-clenching, facial grimaces, nervous tics, and tensing of muscles. Also, Type A traits include impulsivity, hurried speech, no compassion for other Type As, and feelings of guilt during periods of relaxation

The Type B personality contrasts with Type A behavior. The Type B personality is characterized by a generally relaxed attitude toward life, not hostility, and competitiveness only when the situation demands it. Type B personality types have no sense of urgency about them and do not have free-floating hostility. Unlike Type A personalities, Type Bs have the ability to relax without guilt.

Research indicates that not only are Type A personalities more likely than Type Bs to suffer coronary heart disease but also fatal heart attacks occur almost twice as frequently in Type As. The relationship between Type A behavior and heart disease is reported to be especially significant for individuals in their thirties and forties, and it affects both males and females.

Among women, the most prominent group of Type A personalities comprises those who have changed their lifestyle to fit executive careers. Research such as that conducted by Friedman and Rosenman illustrates that although cardiovascular disease is related to many factors, such as obesity and smoking, the role of the stressful personality cannot be overlooked.

In addition to the Type A and Type B personality types, a third has been recently recognized: The Type C personality.

Type C personalities are individuals who sustain considerable stress but have learned to cope with it. Whether or not they are bothered by cardiovascular illness depends on how effectively they have learned to cope. Many of us tend to be in this category, since nearly all of us share, to a certain degree, some characteristics of the Type A personality. The more involved persons are with these characteristics, the more involved they are with stress and the more they need to learn about effective coping strategies (Jeffrey S. Turner, American Families in Crisis: A Reference Handbook).