FIGURES DON'T LIE
W. W. Bauer
THEY gathered around a fireplace in the Student Union, discussing their vacations. The endomorph stretched himself a bit more luxuriously in his deep upholstered chair, bit another chew off a large chocolate bar with nuts, folded his hands over his ample stomach, and sighed contentedly:
“I’m going back to Heron Lake, where I was last year. Lots of sunshine, good food, nice folks, quiet and comfortable. Suits me to a T.”
“It would, Uncle Elby!” growled the mesomorph, pausing in his restless pacing to kick at a chair which had intruded upon his path. “Sit around all summer and do nothing. Me! I’m going to climb a couple of mountains—if I can find some nobody else has climbed. Or go West and bust broncs!”
“Okay, Tarzan,” the endomorph replied, with easy amiability. “You can have it.” He turned to the third member and asked, “Where are you going, Skeeter, and what are you going to do?”
“Me?” replied the ectomorph, fidgeting uneasily on his chair, a hard straight one on which he had been perched as if on edge. His eyes darted restlessly from one to the other of his companions, before he replied. “Me? I—well—er—I haven’t decided.”
What goes on here? Is somebody trying to be funny? Endomorph? Tarzan? Nobody is trying to be funny. This scene reflects serious scientific research carried on by Dr. W. H. Sheldon and Dr. S. S. Stevens of Harvard, and Dr. W. B. Tucker of the University of Chicago, and other associates in various universities.
Classifying things and people has been a passion of man since earliest times. I knew a charming old lady who was convinced that a large nose or prominent ears gave evidence of a generous disposition. Hippocrates tried to divide men into two types, largely according to the structure of their chests, placing the long and lean in one class and the barrel-chested in another. The man in the street unconsciously classifies his fellow men, often with nicknames. “Fatty,” “Skinny,” “Tarzan,” or “Moose,” all bring to mind a picture of someone we have known.
But too many human beings did not fit the classifications; there were too many exceptions. Dr. Sheldon and associates decided there was something wrong with the definitions, and proceeded to make observations on numerous college students—ultimately 4,000—to find out what it was. They discovered that man does indeed vary, but not according to a pigeonhole series of mutually exclusive types. Rather, he varies infinitely in many characteristics, gome minor, some major. Their findings are set out in two books: “Varieties of Human Physique” (1940) and “Varieties of Temperament” (1942). Both will repay thoughtful reading and study, since they shed much light not only on human structure but on human behavior.
How did the doctors go about studying their problem? After many false starts, not all of which are even mentioned in their books, they arrived at a method through a trial and error procedure. They
photographed their subjects, unclothed, from three views, front, rear and one side, at a fixed distance from the camera so that all the photographs would be alike in proportion and size and thus provide a basis for accurate measurements. Then they began to study the photographs, and to arrange them serially according to body types.
They found some extreme types of bodily structure. Take, for example, the picture of a large, soft body, with proportionately large trunk and the abdomen more prominent than the chest. The shoulders are high and square, the neck short. His general contour is rounding, with short tapering limbs, small hands and feet; a large body on a small skeleton. His waistline is high and there may be fatty pads of fat about the back and even a fatty pseudobreast. His leg outline may make a curve from hip to ankle, suggesting the
Research shows there’s a definite connection between your body measurements and the way you act
feminine roundness of contour. His skin is smooth, soft and velvety and his hair texture probably fine, and there is not much body hair. Who could help calling him “Blimp?”
Another extreme type, differing sharply from the above, is characterized by delicacy, fragility and a contour suggesting lines rather than curved surfaces. The bones are small, the muscles thready; the shoulders droop, the trunk is short, the limbs relatively long. The arms may seem to hang forward of the body. The abdomen is flat and shallow; if it protrudes it does so only below the navel. The neck is likely to be long and slender and project forward. The skin is thin and dry, and tends toward fine wrinkles early in life. Do you wonder these fellows fall heir to nicknames like “Skeeter”?
The third type has a square, hard body with rugged massive muscles and large prominent bones. His shoulders are broad, the limbs heavily muscled and especially large through the wrists and the hands. The chest volume predominates over the abdomen, the waist is slender and the pelvis broad and powerful, with wide hips: The jaws tend to be heavy, the lips
heavy, the neck long, shoulders low. The skin is thick and coarse, and the hair coarse. Sure, you call him Tarzan, and why not?
Arranging and studying the photographs of 4,000 college men disclosed these three primary types, and no other typer. There has not been observed any fourth type that was not a composite of these three. But in between these types, and partaking of the features of one or the other of them, was an infinite variation of bodies belonging to types not sharply marked but merging one into the other. Moreover, a given person was not necessarily of one type in all parts of his body, a phenomenon which the doctors called dysplasia.
So they proceeded to measure the body dimensions by placing the negatives over a grid of given size and taking, with calipers, 17 measurements of five regions —the head and neck, upper trunk, arms, lower trunk, legs. By a complicated numerical system of designations they classified types on a value scale of seven, according to the characteristics of the three main types discovered. This whole procedure, which is much more painstaking and complicated than can be indicated here, is called somatotyping, which, in English, is body typing.
And now we come back to the beginning, and find out why Uncle Elby is called an endomorph, Tarzan a mesomorph and Skeeter an ectomorph. It goes back to the development of the human body from the egg. Early in this process the mass of substance which will turn out to be a human being divides into three layers of cells known as germinal layers. The lower layer, from which develop the internal organs concerned with digestion (stomach, liver, and accessories), is called the endoderm, or inner layer. And here is Uncle Elby, fat and comfortable, with a predominant abdomen and a good appetite and plenty of fat to show for it. The middle Continued on page 43
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embryonic layer is called the mesoderm, from which come the bones and the muscles. Now take a look at Tarzan. See? And from the upper layer, the ectoderm, come the skin, the brain, the nerves, the organs of special sense—in a word, Skeeter.
A warning should be sounded at this point. These structural types are not based on whether the individual is fat or thin. The type remains the same, though soft living may put fat on the mesomorph and to some slight extent perhaps on the ectomorph as well as the endomorph. The type also remains unchanged regardless of time of life— nothing, in fact, can alter the type you’re born with.
Sheldon and company demonstrated that a person may have characteristics of several of the types, so a numerical expression was devised to classify them. Each individual was studied first with respect to his conformity with the endomorphic type, which the investigators called Component I and rated on a seven-point scale. Thus if he was a very marked endomorph, like the photographs of the extreme example, he would be rated 7 in endomorphy; if he had little or no resemblance to that type he would be rated 1 in endomorphy. The same individual was then rated again with respect to mesomorphy (Component II) and ectomorphy (Component III). Thus a person high in endoand low in mesoand ectomorphy would be classified 7-1-1. High in mesomorphy and low in the other two types would be classed 1-7-1, and high in ectomorphy and low in the other two: 1-1-7. Such sequences as 2-3-5, 3-4-3 and the like would classify a person according to his adherence to the types.
With scales from 1-1-1 to 7-7-7 and all theoretical variations and combinations of these figures, 343 somatotypes are theoretically possible. The investigators predicted 70 types on the basis of the photographs, but finally 6 more were added when the measuring had been finished. It would seem that the other possibles just do not exist. Theoretically, also, a person who somatotyped 4-4-4 would be the most common, but actually this turned out to be 3-4-4. Maybe this is the normal person, the common man whom Lincoln said God must have loved because He made so many of them.
But probably the most important proof that this work has developed is the emphatic denial that human beings belong to one of two or three or maybe half a dozen hard and fast types. They vary, man for man and woman for woman, in almost infinite variety. Indeed, complicated as this research is —and I have simplified it until I am afraid to face the authors—they consider it only a suggestive beginning toward many other studies in human configuration.
Your Type Doesn’t Change
But what does it all mean? Why all this detailed measurement? What have we now that we did not have before? If the gang at the corner can pin the label Fatso on one guy and Sliver on another, while a third is automatically recognized as Moose, what have scientists added?
For one thing they have proved that types are independent of age or of superadded fat. Also, they have helped to co-ordinate information long known to doctors, namely that body structure has a relationship to individual needs, to liability to disease and
accident, to temperament, and to satisfactory adjustment to living.
Here is Uncle Elby, the endomorph. Admittedly we have made him extreme. What do doctors know of this round fat type? For one thing, such people are likely to become diabetic or to develop gall bladder disease. For another, fat is not good for the heart or the arteries. Great bulk on small bones may cause back, leg, ankle or foot strains or even arthritis. But their digestive equipment is good—perhaps too good—and so they are not likely to suffer from digestive troubles, at least not of the nervous indigestion type.
Tarzan is the big muscle boy. He is usually a pretty healthy specimen until he starts to slow up. Then he may have trouble with his heart and arteries. Being active, he is prone to accidental injury. He often has high blood pressure; may die early and suddenly of apoplexy.
Skeeter is tight and tense: the “nervous ailments” and apprehensions are pretty likely to hit him hard, especially with relation to digestion. He is a push-over for tuberculosis.
What about temperament? Well, it has long been said that the fat man is good-natured because he can neither fight nor run. But after somatotyping Uncle Elby, and studying his habits and his reactions for a year, as Dr. Sheldon and co-workers did with many of their subjects, we find quite a number of better reasons why he is as he is.
And bow is he? You know a dozen like him, and most of them will have most of the traits which the authors have grouped together as consistent with this character. They relax—oh, how they relax! They love comfort; their reactions are slow. They love to eat for the sake of eating, and to make a ceremony of it, and then belch happily in the Chinese manner to indicate gratitude to the good provider. They are ceremoniously polite, and love company in a broad, happy-golucky way which embraces everybody, drunk or sober, in a hail-fellow-wellmet camaraderie. They love people for the sake of people; all kinds of people. They are even-tempered and tolerant to the point of complacency. Their sleep is undisturbed by qualm or worry. Alcohol intensifies their easy extroversion. They need people when they are troubled. They live again in the days of their childhood. They lack temper in the sense in which metals are tempered. They don’t amount to much, but they are grand people. Everyone loves them and is nice to them. They get away with murder in the way of laziness, shiftlessness and nonchalent indolence. Don’t look now, but you know who I mean. Major Hoople? Y our Aunt Mehitabel?
Dr. Sheldon and his co-workers have a name for this type of personality. They call it viscerotonic, that is, centred in or dominated by the viscera, the internal organs, the digestive system. Does the personality go with the somatotype called endomorph? They think it does, always allowing for variations, for mixed or dysplasie types, for the interplay of differences.
The Tarzan Type
Here’s another fellow you know. He is assertive in manner; even his posture is aggressive and full of energy; he needs and craves exercise, enjoys power and domination; he takes adventure in his stride and seems indifferent to pain. He is bold and direct, physically brave for combat, competitive, liable to ride roughshod over others, not because he is cruel, but merely because he is going someplace and can’t be bothered. He is loud and noisy.
He needs space; hates closed places or restraint. Hisappearanceis overmature. He is an aggressive rather than a jovial extrovert. Alcohol makes him scrappy. When he is in trouble he does something about it, and the same when he is happy; what he does may be strenuous, even destructive. Sure you know him. Your Uncle Mike; he was a wrestler in college. Superman, Dick Tracy, the Lone Ranger. Does this temperament fit one of the somatotypes, always allowing for variations? It does, as you have guessed; the mesomorph. His temperament is classified as somatotonic.
That leaves the ectomorph unaccounted for. What sort of a fellow is he likely to be? He is restrained, “tight” in posture and manner; overintense in attitude and reactions, “tied up in a knot,” emotionally inhibited and secretive. He does not seek society but avoids it,, perhaps because of his social “bashfulness,” inability to put his best foot forward. He loathes open spaces, wants to be surrounded by protective walls. He is jittery, unpredictable, feels pain keenly and may suffer more from anticipation of pain than from actually being hurt. He is mousy; low-voiced, unobtrusive; an introvert. He resists alcohol and other drugs. He does not form habits readily, either good or bad. He sleeps poorly; suffers chronic fatigue. Do you know him? Cousin Elmer? Caspar Milquetoast, the Timid Soul? His somatotype, as already indicated, is the ectomorph; his temperament is classified as cerebrotonic.
The authors have further interesting suggestions. Perhaps these three somatotypes should live quite differently from one another. Possibly they should be provided with different sorts of furniture; any social gathering witnesses the guest who goes straight for the deep soft chair, while another prefers a straight hard seat. The endomorph, it has been observed, has intestines much longer, a liver larger and heavier than the other types, without regard to superficial fat. The doctors suggest that perhaps he is wellequipped to be a vegetarian. The chafing at confinement of the mesomorph-somatotonic personality would suggest a house on a hill, they indicate, while the ectomorph - cerebrotonic would wish to huddle down into a hollow. As to activity and exercise, the differences are obvious; the viscerotone is content to sit and watch the world go by, the somatotone wants purposeful and strenuous activity; the cerebrotone is likely never to find out what he does want.
Understanuxng these facts will help us to avoid fitting square pegs into round holes. Somatotypes of the endomorph variety do not make good athletes, obviously, except as swimmers (they are buoyant in the water). They are often fine pleasant people, easy to live with. They “get along with others” smoothly. The mesomorph - somatotonic is not necessarily an athlete. He may be big, burly and tough-appearing, but awkward and muscle-bound. Certainly he is not the intellectual type. In the same way, the intellectual ectomorph-cerebrotonic often has his place in the scheme of things, and the other two types cannot replace him.
If an understanding of human variation does nothing more than rid us of the insistence of the big muscle boys that everybody has to have a cold bath and an hour’s sweaty workout every morning before breakfast, it will have paid dividends for all the labor that went into these and similar studies. So— I’m an endomorph? Well, if I am, I’m not going to try to be something else.
Another practical benefit that may arise from studies of this kind could be a
better understanding that there is no one normal weight for all persons of the same age and height. Many an intensive reducing campaign has been waged, bringing weight down below where it ought to be, by persons of the mesoand endomorphic somatotypes, who tried vainly and unwisely to look like ectomorphs. And the latter have as futilely tried to put on weight to which they could never attain, for the simple reason that it was not in the picture of their somatotype.
Temperament is modified, of course, by environment and training, but what Sheldon, Stevens and Tucker have tried is the fundamental temperamental trend of the individual. Each of the men whom they have studied has been observed for at least a year, and rated again and again during that time, according to a rating sheet of 60 traits (20 each viscerotonic, somatotonic, and cerebrotonic). The temperament descriptions given above have been based on this tabulation. The subjects have been observed at work and at play; they have answered questionnaires; interviews with them have been held repeatedly.
This research is distinctly pioneer stuff and all its practical applications are not yet evident. Sometimes pure research takes a long time to find its usefulness in everyday life. There are, however, some deductions which are possible even now, in addition to the medical points already mentioned as to the different disease liabilities of the several somatotypes and personality groups.
The authors specifically warn against detailed self-rating, especially with regard to certain traits of temperament about which an individual finds it difficult, if not impossible, to be objective. And, of course, you cannot rate your own somatotype with any accuracy unless you have the ap-
propriate photographs, and at least some basis of comparison such as the illustrations in the book, “Varieties of Human Physique.” Even so, the amateur may arrive at some shrewd conclusions on the basis of his general temperamental trends, his preference and his dislikes.
Aside from the detailed scientific considerations, it is possible for man to realize that no two human beings are exactly alike and therefore no hard and fast rule of living can be made which will fit all persons. Most of us, for example, require eight hours of sleep but some need 12 and others can do with five daily. Some are fresh-air fiends, others not. Most of us need from 2,000 to 3,000 calories in food per day but some require 4,000 and othersonly 1,500 and this difference is not exclusively due to work or other activity. Some crave and require exercise, and should have it, while others find it distasteful, depressing and actually harmful.
It has been suggested, not only that man should know these characteristics of his, but that he should endeavor to compensate for them. This may be advisable within limits but it can easily be carried too far. Split personality and mental disaster can come from trying to be something one is not. The theory that man should conform to a pattern is definitely contrary to good hygiene and, if pressed too far, may do harm. What a world it would be if we were all alike! The simple fact is that some people are built, in body and in temperament, for a tranquil, sedentary life; others for strenuous activity; others for intellectual pursuits. Except for avoidance of unwholesome extremes, it is best for each individual to follow his natural bent. While scientists have made extensive investigations and have created mathematical formulas, they have merely furnished scientific proof for what common-sense observation has long suggested; namely, that one man’s meat may be another man’s poison.