Significance of “Centered” Somatotypes


This seems to be an appropriate time to give the middle type a name. Although it would be nice to find a scientific “Latin” word that would convey the exact meaning of the middle type the resulting terms have confusing associations.  So, I settled on the least problematic  “Centrimorph”. While not inspirational it is simple and should be easily understood.

While three numbers may be sufficient to classify a body according to Sheldon’s schema, a fourth number or index indicating the degree of CENTRIMORPHY is needed to get a full picture of the factors making up temperament.  The Centrimorph index follows Sheldon in using a scale of 1 to 7, with “7” representing equality of all three systems.  I place the index of Centrimorphy  in parentheses after the usual three numbers that are given to locate a somatotype.  The parentheses is a reminder that, although it is an important component of temperament, it is not an actual extreme, but is derived from the three main physical dimensions of a physique.  A somatotype ordinarily given as a 4,4,4 would be written 4,4,4,(7) indicating the maximum state of balance.  A 1,1,7 would become 1,1,7,(1) indicating the maximum distance from the center.  Other somatotypes would be located between these extremes on the centrimorphy scale.  Simply stated it is an expression of the degree of balance between endomorphy, mesomorphy and ectomorphy.


I have suggested that Sheldon’s schema can be used to establish the order of dominance of the four organismic systems.  This means that there are twenty-four possible ways of arranging the rank order of the four systems.  This makes a very usable typology.  Three factors would generate only six combinations.  Our intuition would lead us to conclude that a sieve with such a large mesh would let too much wash away.  Five factors would produce an unmanageable 120 combinations.  While optimization isn’t a criteria for generating a typology,  it is gratifying when a typology is the size that a human mind can work with, without the assistance of a computer.

The process of deciphering the meaning of the twenty-four combinations is simplified if we remember that we are trying to take a holistic approach to understanding temperament. This means that the rank order of the systems sort themselves out into a behavioral hierarchy.  The four systems are not blended or mixed like fluids.  Each system represents a particular type of holistic behavior.  Each system has the capacity to dominate the whole organism.  Since an object (chunk) or organism can only go in one direction at any given moment, only one system can be operative at a given time.  It is as if the organism is a complex and expensive scientific apparatus that must be shared by several different researchers.  This may be why we often hear psychological talk  about “there’s this part of me…”

The first system represents what the organism wants.  The last system represents what the organism wants to avoid.  The second system is how the organism gets what it wants. The third system is kind of neutral and may rarely emerge in a situation of leisure or it may be the last defense against what it doesn’t want.  There is a body of research carried out by the Russian disciple of Pavlov, – P.K. Anokhim,  that supports the time-sharing model of organismic behavior.

“Every holistic activity of the organism has a tendency to be the only one present at a given time and to exclude all other acts.  The organism cannot combine simultaneously two or three holistic activities.” Anokhin, P.K. (1965),  In: Russian monographs on brain and behavior no. 3. Orienting reflex and exploratory behavior. Ed. American Institute of Biological Sciences, Washington.

The dominant system under a time-sharing arrangement determines what the organism wants.  It gets the largest stretch of time.  Once it has been determined what is “wanted”, the secondary system is available as the tool of choice to obtain what is “wanted”.  It becomes the modus operandi.  The last system is generally avoided, and if it has to be used its application will reveal an underdeveloped set of associated skills.  The third ranked system is the system that includes those things you would like to get around to if you have time. In other words the third ranked system is most likely to emerge as a recreational pursuit.  To sum it up, we can classify a person according to the following pattern:

  1. What a person wants.
  2. How a person gets what they want.
  3. What a person may do if time is available.
  4. What a person avoids.

Here are some examples of how the types would be abbreviated and organized.

V = Visceral System   M = Muscular System

N = Nervous System   O = Orientational System





On this site, don’t expect to find the lengthy personality sketches that you may find in many personality systems.  Instead we will present personality “themes” that summarize the core of a person’s behavior.  Although it may be entertaining to read something like Kiersey’s or the Myers-Briggs, Jungian based typologies, these often become type-scopes that are used as prescriptions for behavior rather than description of behavior.  As such they introduce the Barnum effect (also known as the Forrer effect).  This is based on the great circus organizer, P.T. Barnum’s goal of including something for everyone to attract the largest possible audience. There have been experiments where people have been given personality tests and then “see” themselves in a personality sketch that isn’t based on any theory but is loaded with favorable comments.  Instead, I envision a future, perhaps in the context of a forum at this website, where people can share their personal life stories derived from the insights obtained from knowing their body-type. Fleshing out the meaning of a person’s body-type would definitely be an area where a person may want the services of a knowledgeable therapist, counselor, or coach.


As we try to interpret the effect of each combination of the four systems, we want to stay as true as possible to the language of the body’s structure. This will naturally limit what we can say and this is why complex sketches of people aren’t practical at this point.  Some day when there is data for a couple hundred of each combination it should be possible to achieve extraordinary insight about each permutation.  That doesn’t mean that individuals can’t benefit immediately.  The simple themes should be an adequate guide for self-discovery.

There are two things we need to understand about the systems.  First of all we need to know the purpose of each system.  In other words, we need to know the desired state a system wants.  Let’s imagine we could converse with each system and ask – What state are you desiring?   Initially, we’re looking for a single word that describes the desired state of each system. The words we are looking for would be classified as “abstract nouns” in contrast to “concrete nouns”.  Once the main “word” is put in place, the description can always be embellished with synonyms and descriptive phrases for further clarification, but with the constraint of not going too far from the essential function of the system.

Here is a summary of these key “state” words:

  1. Visceral System, what is the one word that describes the state you are desiring? Answer: UNITY
  2. Muscular System, what is the one word that describes the state you are desiring? Answer: ACTION
  3. Nervous System, what is the one word that describes the state you are desiring?  Answer: IDENTITY
  4. Orientational System, what is the one word that describes the state you are desiring? Answer: CHANGE

Next, we need to understand what each system does.  It’s as if we could ask each system – What are you doing?  This time we are looking for an action word – a verb.

Here is a summary of these key “action” words:

  1. Visceral System, in just one word what are you doing?”   Answer: CONTACTING/ATTACHING
  2. Muscular System, in just one word what are you doing?”  Answer: WORKING/CONTROLLING
  3. Nervous System, in just one word what are you doing?”  Answer: REACTING/PLANNING
  4. Orientational System, in just one word what are you doing?” Answer: SEARCHING/SENSING


Next: Predicting Personality from Somatotype


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