Type A Personality

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This type of personality concerns how people respond to stress.

Type A individuals tend to be very competitive and self-critical. They strive toward goals without feeling a sense of joy in their efforts or accomplishments.

Inter-related with this is the presence of a significant life imbalance. This is characterized by a high work involvement. Type A individuals are easily ‘wound up’ and tend to overreact. They also tend to have high blood pressure (hypertension).

Type A personalities experience a constant sense of urgency: Type A people seem to be in a constant struggle against the clock.  Often, they quickly become impatient with delays and unproductive time, schedule commitments too tightly, and try to do more than one thing at a time, such as reading while eating or watching television.

Type A individuals tend to be easily aroused to anger or hostility, which they may or may not express overtly.  This appears to be the main factor linked to heart disease.

type a personality

Empirical Research

Friedman & Rosenman (1959) (both cardiologists) found that people with type A personality run a higher risk of heart disease and high blood pressure than type Bs. Their theory was based on an observation of the patients with heart conditions in their waiting room.

Unlike most patients, who wait patiently, some people seemed unable to sit in their seats for long and wore out the chairs. They tended to sit on the edge of the seat and leaped up frequently.

What was unusual was that the chairs were worn down on the front edges of the seats and armrests instead of on the back areas, which would have been more typical. They were as tense as racehorses at the gate. The two doctors labeled this behavior Type A personality.

personality type a

They conducted a longitudinal study to test their hypothesis, in which 3200 middle aged managers and executives (all men) were given questionnaires over a eight and a half year duration.

Examples of questions asked by Friedman & Rosenman:

    • Do you feel guilty if you use spare time to relax?

    • Do you need to win in order to derive enjoyment from games and sports?

    • Do you generally move, walk and eat rapidly?

    • Do you often try to do more than one thing at a time?

From their responses, and from their manner, each participant was put into one of three groups:

Type A behavior: competitive, ambitious, impatient, aggressive, fast talking.

Type B behavior: relaxed, non-competitive.

Type C behavior: ‘nice,’ hard working but become apathetic when faced with stress

Eight years later 257 of the participants had developed coronary heart disease. By the end of the study 70% of the men who had developed coronary heart disease (CHD) were type A personalities.

The Type A personality types behavior makes them more prone to stress-related illnesses such as CHD, raised blood pressure etc.

Fight or Flight Response

Such people are more likely to have their ”flight or fight” response set off by things in their environment. As a result they are more likely to have the stress hormones present, which over a long period of time leads to a range of stress-related illnesses.

Limitations of the study involve problems with external validity. Because the study used an all male sample, it is unknown if the results could be generalized to a female population. The men were also middle aged (35-59 years), and therefore the finding cannot be extrapolated to a younger age range.

Furthermore there is a problem regarding extraneous variables potentially confounding the results of the study. For example, the researchers did not control the diet of the participants and this may have been a contributing factor to the development of heart disease, instead of having type A personality.


Friedman, M., & Rosenman, R. H. (1959). Association of Specific Overt Behavior Pattern With Blood and Cardiovascular Findings Blood Cholesterol Level, Blood Clotting Time, Incidence of Arcus Senilis, and Clinical Coronary Artery Disease. Journal of the American Medical Association, 169(12), 1286-1296.

How to cite this article:

McLeod, S. A. (2011). Type A Personality. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/personality-a.html

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Further Information

A-level psychology stress revision notes

The body's response to stress

Stress and the immune system

Type A Personality Test

Journal Article - The Personality Assessment System as A Conceptual Framework for the Type A Coronary-Prone Behavior Pattern piaget pdf

Journal Article - Evaluation of Type A personality piaget pdf

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