The concept of somatotype or somatic type is well known in the world of exercise and nutrition., But also within psychology.
The concept was developed by psychologist William Herbert Sheldon in the 1940s. However, his predecessor was Ernst Kretschmer who tried to relate the biotype and psychotype of individuals, i.e. he investigated and claimed to find links between body composition and temperament.
Like any morphopsychological theory, Kretschmer’s theory has been the subject of much criticism.. However, Sheldon’s somatotypes are still very popular today, especially in sports and nutrition.
Kretschmer biotypes (body types)
In the 1920s, Kretschmer, a German psychiatrist, decided to study and investigate the relationships that may exist between morphological structure and human temperament. As a sample for his studies, he chose mental patients with different pathologies: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder …
With the results he obtained, he established three basic types of body constitutions, and one which represented mixed and disproportionate groups. They are as follows:
- Leptosomatic or asthenic
- Athletic or epileptoid
- Picnic or cyclothymic
1. Leptosomatic or asthenic
These people have a thin shouldered body, are tall, with a narrow chest, an elongated face and nose. pumped skulls. They have an introverted personality, with difficulties of adaptation. They are sentimental and speculative individuals who are interested in art.
According to the author, they have a schizothymic temperament, and their character oscillates between hypersensitivity and coldness. These people are more likely to have a serious mental disorder called schizophrenia.
2. Athletic or epileptoid
People with epileptoids have strong bodies in both musculature and bones.. They are more energetic and aggressive. Due to their sturdiness, they are strong, determined, adventurous and are distinguished by their passion and sentimentality, but also by their dirtiness. They are impulsive people and prone to epilepsy.
3. Picnic or cyclothymic
They are people, small in stature but very robust, with rounded bodies., With voluminous and fatty viscera. They can be bald, with little muscle development. They are intelligent people, with a laughing and jovial character. They exhibit oscillations in their state of mind as they can go from very excited and happy to sad and run down. People who picnic are inconsistent in their activities and can be both optimistic and pessimistic. These people are more likely to suffer from bipolar disorder.
These people have a disproportionate body and do not fit into any of the above categories.. At the psychological level, these subjects have no definite character, but within this group it is possible to find people with a weak or schizoid character.
Criticisms of Kretschmer’s theory
Although Kretschmer inspired other authors such as Sheldon, this typology has come under heavy criticism. Many of them point out that:
- The types are extreme and not average.
- Being extreme, they radically divide individuals and overlook many individual differences
- It does not take into account the physical changes that may occur due to the change in diet
- His research is flawed because he used sick subjects and not normal individuals.
Unlike the previous author, Sheldon conducted his research with normal subjects. This author was a professor at Harvard University. He began his research in 1928 and published the results in 1940. He employed over 4,000 male students and then carried out his research with women.
Sheldon’s idea was different from Kretschmer’s, so first studied somatotypes and, separately, sought to discover their correlation with personality traits and temperament, Which according to him are: viscerotonia, somatotonia and cerebrotonia. Their results indicate that in 80% of cases, there is a correlation between endomorphism and viscerotonia, between mesomorphism and somatotonia, and between ectomorphism and cerebrotonia.
Below, we explore Sheldon’s somatotypes.
They are tall, thin and weak people. In other words, they are individuals with few muscles and relatively lighter bones than other body types. Ectomorphs are easy to spot because they are slender, their limbs are long, and they are generally tall. They rarely gain weight. In terms of personality, they are emotionally sensitive people who can easily suffer from emotional issues and mood swings.
The body of the endomorph is rounded and as its main feature are people who have a natural tendency to accumulate fat in the abdomen in men and in the hips in women. The endomorph is very sociable, fun, relaxed and good-natured. They love food and generally provide good company.
The mesomorph is the most balanced of the three somatotypes because their body is made up of a balanced combination of muscle and bone.. These individuals are athletic in shape, with well-defined muscles and proportionate bones. They have a small size but a sturdy construction. In terms of personality, the mesomorph is balanced, very energetic, enjoys sports and adventures, and has no problem doing physical activities. The mesomorph is very tolerant and less sensitive than the ectomorph.
Some details on Sheldon’s somatotypes
Leaving aside the psychological aspect of the theory which has been much criticized, the above somatotypes represent extremes. However, in his studies, Sheldon achieves these somatotypes by studying five bodily elements (head, chest, legs, etc.) separately, then adding them up and making these somatotypes.
But apart from these extreme body types, Sheldon’s theory does not rule out that there are some nuances in this categorization. In real life there are more than three somatotypes, and it is easy to find a perfect ectomorph, but also a mesomorph that has fat like endomorphs, so this individual would be a combination of two extreme somatotypes and share the characteristics. of both body types. .