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What’s Your Blood Type, Baby?

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When a Type A personality is talked about in Japan, it isn’t what you’d expect it to be. Many Japanese people believe that personality is influenced by blood type. Upon first learning of this theory, I found it amusingly naïve and preposterous. I couldn’t imagine what would have led to such a dubious theory. Upon further reflection, I realized that the Japanese hardly have the market cornered on dubious personality theories.

While growing up, I was told by my mother on more than one occasion that my supposedly fiery-tempered nature was the result of my having red hair. She never told me that red hair also meant I would also purportedly grow up to be highly-sexed. While I was a temperamental child (as many children are unable to control their emotions), I’ve grown up to be quite a bit more composed and in control of my emotions as an adult than my (dark-haired) mother.

Character possibly being influenced by hair color doesn’t end with redheads. Blondes are commonly thought of as being innocent, naïve, or just plain dumb. Both redheads and blondes are more strongly associated with libidinous proclivities than brunettes.

When I share the hair color-influenced theory of personality with students, they have the same reaction I did when I hear about blood type influencing personality. They think it’s an incredibly silly concept. This is a reflection of a culture in which the overwhelming majority of people are born with nearly identical hair color. It makes sense that they’d have to find something less superficial than outward appearance to formulate an idiosyncratic personality theory.

Of course, cultures of similar-looking people could have gone the route of Franz Gall and looked at bumps on the head to look for character pointers. Gall’s pseudoscience of phrenology inspected the bumps and indentations on people’s heads and reached conclusions about such character aspects as courage, pride, desire to reproduce, ability to love, and even religious beliefs. This theory had the vague ring of science since it was complicated and required instruments to “read” a person’s character.

Finally, there is the biggest arbitrary indicator of personality of them all — birth date. This one is embraced in a wide variety of cultures to a greater or lesser extent and has a long history. Nearly everyone I speak to says that they don’t really believe in astrology, yet everyone knows his or her astrological sign and most have a peek at the predictions now and then but claim not to take them seriously.

All cultures seem to have a need to find superficial indicators of personality. This is a curious tendency on the one hand and an understandable one on the other. It is odd because believing one’s character is in any way influenced by arbitrary factors places control of one’s behavior outside of oneself. For example, if you believe being born blood type B means you will be irresponsible, self-centered, and forgetful, you may accept these negative traits as inevitable and incapable of being improved upon. Feeling that you are saddled with character flaws for reasons beyond your control is hardly an attractive proposition. The flip side of this is that you have an excuse and don’t have to take responsibility for your problems.

The most understandable reason for such personality theories is that it allows others to quickly sum you up without having to get to know you or understand you. The clichéd pickup line about asking about someone’s sign developed from a tendency to feel that finding out this key piece of information would provide a wealth of character data when considering compatibility without having to go through the pesky process of actually talking to someone.

When I asked a variety of students if blood type is often discussed as part of getting to know a prospective boyfriend or girlfriend (or considering a future mate), I was informed that it is often casually mentioned and discussed as a point of interest. Most Japanese people also seem to feel that there is an “ideal” opposing blood type for them to marry and that taking up with someone of their own blood type is a less than perfect choice. However, they would no more reject someone based only on blood type alone than most of us would based on hair color, astrological sign, or head bumps.

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About Shari

  • duane

    Shari: The most understandable reason for such personality theories is that it allows others to quickly sum you up without having to get to know you or understand you.

    Maybe. My theory is more cynical. I think people who believe in astrology are indulging in a disguised form of narcissism, attempting to assign to themselves some distinctive personality traits that set them apart from 11/12 of the population. For example, astrology dictates that, among my characteristics are

    ”…solidity, practicality, extreme determination and strength of will – no one will ever drive them….”


    “Mentally, they are keen-witted and practical….”


    ”…they have a strong aesthetic taste, enjoying art, for which they may have a talent, beauty (recoiling from anything sordid or ugly) and music.”

    Yeah, right. That’s me. I love reading about all my positive attributes. Everybody is beautiful according to the astrologers, and we are beautiful in various combinations that make us unique and interesting to others.

  • SonnyD

    Shari: Maybe one of your personality traits is to see things from a negative POV. If a person goes through life not recognizing that there are some negative aspects to their personality, they may wonder why others do not see them as they see themselves. However, if they are told that there is a possibility they may have some negative traits such as irresponsibility, self-centeredness or forgetfulness, isn’t it possible they may take a closer look at their actions and make an effort to improve?

    People do seem to be born with distinct personalities and tendencies to exhibit certain talents – or lack thereof – and there is no reason why one can’t use free will to control the negative and build on the positive.

  • Noir

    Have you read “Eat Right 4 Your Type”? This is a revolutionary book about diet and how blood type affects everything in our daily lives. I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that there are definitive differences in personality between blood types. Maybe not in the superficial sense. After all, people will either have a sense of humor or not. But there are differences in how people react to stress and/or conflict, whether they act out their anger and aggression or turn it inside. These reactions can often be attributed to blood type.

  • There’s little or no scientific basis for this, but the general beliefs about blood type are:

    Type A – calm, composed, level-headed, serious, reliable, trustworthy. Appearing aloof or superior, they are often surrounded by people of their own type, as they find it difficult to rely on other types. Most Japanese people are Type A.

    Type B – cheerful, enthusiatic, excitable, self-involved, capricious. They always appear bright and full of energy, but they are often hiding an inner lack of confidence.

    Type O – carefree, generous, popular, strong-willed, adaptable to new things. They are the diplomats, who maintain group harmony but occasionally make big mistakes by not being careful enough. Most Americans are Type O.

    Type AB – sentimental, considerate, cautious. There are two sides to AB types: their behaviour is significantly less direct with “outside” people than with “inside” people who they are comfortable with.

  • jeff

    Invented by the Japanese, one of the most racist (but who wasn’t?) cultures of the 20th century!

  • The messyer

    Utter garbage indeed, and while I do beleive nature has a say in who we become, ultimately it’s our upbringing that sets us apart. What this is, is phenotypal traits being used to describe other for phenotypal traits.
    Like the hair color personality association, and other claims just as false (cranial size of different “races”, as being indicative of level of civilization.)
    let’s say for example, I have genes that would allow my body to grow quite large. However, my environment is 3rd world Africa, and I’m malnourished. Those tall genes don’t get to fulfill my capacity for being tall, because my body is not intaking enough protein to grow large…
    And there you go, simply refuted, our genes while contribute to our overall personality predelictions, these are conditioned by environment factors…
    In something such as human phsychology, much of the human brain is conditioned by past experiences, nutrition level, and other environmental factors.