Type A and B Personality

Personality  differences  among  individuals  can  be explained  in  relation  to  their  individual  differences in need patterns. Individuals possess various needs—very  basic  ones,  such  as  the  consumption of  food  and  avoidance  of  pain;  and  secondary ones,  such  as  achievement,  affiliation,  and  dominance.  These  primary  and  secondary  needs  have the  potential  to  influence  an  individual’s  pattern of behavior. One of the needs attracting the attention  of  researchers  in  psychology  is  the  need  for control,  which  has  been  associated  with  Type  A behavior.  Individuals  with  Type  A  behavior  patterns   are   characterized   as   being   competitive, aggressive,  and  hostile.  They  also  display  extraverted tendencies and a tendency to work beyond their  physical  capacity,  as  well  as  possessing  the need  for  control  over  the  environment.  Personal traits  that  are  linked  to  Type  A  behavior  include dominance,  need  achievement,  and  trait  anxiety. It is assumed that being in a competitive-oriented environment  (e.g.,  school,  sport  program)  facilitates  Type  A  behavior.  The  antithesis  of  Type  A behavior  is  Type  B  behavior—characterized  by easygoing,  nonaggressive,  and  noncompetitive behavior.

For  athletes  with  Type  A  behavior,  a  competitive event is characterized by the need to control a given  situation;  time  urgency,  which  is  associated with  the  fear  of  losing  control  over  what  one  is doing;  and  hostility  is  exhibited  when  the  athlete loses  control  of  what  is  happening.  It  is  assumed that  dominant  athletes  (athletes  with  Type  A behavior)  tend  to  play  more  central  and  more intense roles in sport situations and assume more risks  in  order  to  achieve  their  individual  goals, compared to athletes with lower dominance, those athletes with Type B behavior.

Measurement of Type A/B Behavior

The  most  frequently  employed  measure  of  Type A and B personality is the Jenkins Activity Survey (JAS).  The  JAS  has  become  firmly  entrenched  in the  field  of  management,  as  well  as  in  medical and psychological research, as a standard tool for assessing Type A behavior. The JAS is a self-report questionnaire and is made up of 52 multiple-choice items that yield a composite Type A scale score and three subscales obtained by factor analysis: speed and impatience, job involvement, and competitive and hard driving. One of the concerns associated with the JAS is that this tool has proven to be no better than chance in discriminating between Type A and Type B personalities.

Exercise and Type A Behavior

Type A behavior has been linked to increased risk of coronary heart disease. In addition, it has been suggested  that  the  anger–hostility  component  of the Type A construct is the most significant characteristic  related  to  heart  disease,  and  that  individuals  with  Type  B  behavior  are  less  at  risk  for developing this medical condition. Researchers in sport and exercise psychology have questioned the contribution  of  exercise  training  programs  to  the modification  of  Type  A  behavior.  To  date,  little evidence  has  been  obtained  to  provide  support for the argument that participation in an exercise program can lead to reduction in Type A behavior and subsequently lower the risk of coronary heart disease.

One   study   showed   that   participation   in   a 12-week  aerobic  exercise  program  resulted  in reduction  in  Type  A  behavior  and  also  lowered  cardiovascular  reactivity  to  mental  stress. However,  in  studies  aimed  at  examining  the relationship between Type A behavior and injury risk,  it  was  found  that  athletes  with  Type  A behavior  might  take  greater  risks  and  therefore experience  more  injuries.  For  example,  runners scoring high (e.g., more aggressive, hard driving) on a Type A behavior questionnaire experienced more  injuries  than  those  who  scored  lower  on this measure.

Participation in a multiweek, aerobic-type exercise program, such as biking, running, swimming, or  walking,  has  the  potential  to  help  individuals modify patterns of Type A behavior. However, it is assumed that participation in an exercise program by  itself  is  too  short  in  securing  the  appropriate modification  of  the  components  that  make  up Type  A  behavior.  It  is  proposed  that  in  addition to  an  exercise  program,  individuals  with  Type  A behavior should learn cognitive stress management techniques,  such  as  mental  imagery;  systematic desensitization (association of steps or antecedent behaviors that deal with a stressful experience in a state  of  calmness  and  relaxation);  and  relaxation techniques  like  autogenic  training,  progressive muscle  relaxation,  or  yoga.  In  addition,  massage and  biofeedback  can  also  help  to  modify  Type  A behavior. It is assumed that the adoption of a multifaceted,  holistic  approach—participating  in  an exercise training program combined with learning cognitive stress management techniques—will help individuals reduce the anger–hostility components of their behavior.

References:

  1. Blumenthal, J. A., Emery, C. F., Walsh, M. A., Cox, D. K., Kuhn, C. M., Williams, R. B., et al. (1988). Exercise training in healthy Type A middle-aged men: Effects on behavioral and cardiovascular responses. Psychosomatic Medicine, 50, 418–433.
  2. Dlin, R., Tenenbaum, G., Furst, D., & Weingarten, G. (1988). Type A personality components and the blood pressure response to dynamic exercise. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 9, 35–40.
  3. Fields, K. B., Delaney, M., & Hinkle, S. (1990). A prospective study of Type A behavior and running injuries. Journal of Family Practice, 30, 425–429.
  4. Lyness, S. A. (1993). Predictors of differences between Type A and B individuals in heart rate and blood pressure reactivity. Psychological Bulletin, 114, 266–295.
  5. Pargman, D. (2006). Managing performance stress— Models and methods. New York: Routledge.

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