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.Powered by Sidelines