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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(1) In psychology, the study of character. The term was introduced by the German philosopher J. Bahnsen in his Essays on Characterology (1867). It was chiefly in Germany, during the first half of the 20th century, that the emphasis on characterology as a special branch of psychological research was especially marked; German psychology was then largely influenced by such theories as the philosophy of life and phenomenology, and the term “character” was frequently used as a synonym for “personality.”

The first systematic analysis of the various aspects of character was presented by L. Klages in Principles of Characterology (1910), which was based on the author’s theory of expression. The German psychiatrist E. Kretschmer, in his “constitutional typology” (1921), worked out a static approach wherein character, or temperament, was viewed as an unchanging structure of basic traits corresponding to body makeup. According to Kretschmer, both the mental and the somatic constitution are ultimately determined by innate and, in particular, by endocrine factors. The morphological conception of character of the American psychologist W. Sheldon is close to Kretschmer’s. C. G. Jung (1921) made the distinction between the extroverted and introverted types of character, or personality—the former being primarily oriented toward the outer world, and the latter toward the world of inner experiences and thoughts.

The psychoanalytic approach—as exemplified by A. Adler’s individual psychology—examines character from the point of view of its dynamics as well as its genetic factors, attributing the decisive role in character formation to the events of early childhood. The psychoanalytic school of thought interprets the development of certain character traits as the individual’s peculiar means of resolving some conflict situation; W. Reich, for example, propounded the concept of “character armor” as a self-sustaining system of defensive reactions. Psychoanalysis and the various currents of depth psychology that derive from it emphasize the unconscious and irrational sources of character.

According to the German scholar R. Heiss (1936), man’s character and personality are determined by the basic conflict between divergent human drives and capacities. A major contribution to the subsequent development of German characterology was P. Lersch’s The Structure of Character (1938; reissued in 1951 as The Structure of Personality). Proceeding from the theories of Freud and Klages, Lersch attempted to develop a theory of character “layers,” with an “endothymic” base (including moods, feelings, affects, and drives) and a personality “superstructure.”

In the Anglo-Saxon psychological literature, the study of character was set from the very beginning within the framework of “personality study.” Since World War II, the term “character” has been replaced by “personality” in German psychology as well.

Soviet psychology, proceeding from the Marxist concept of man as the sum of social relationships, emphasizes the sociohistorical factors in the formation of character; character is regarded as a complex unity of that which is individual and that which is typological, resulting from the interaction of hereditary factors and of qualities developed in the process of upbringing.


Psikhoanaliz i uchenie o kharakterakh. Moscow-Petrograd, 1923.
Lazurskii, A. F. Klassifikalsiia lichnostei, 3rd ed. Leningrad, 1924.
Vygotskii, L. S. “K voprosu o dinamike detskogo kharaktera.” In the collection Pedologiia i vospitanie. Moscow, 1928.
Jung, C. G. Psikhologicheskie tipy. Zurich, 1929.
Kretschmer, E. Stroenie tela i kharakter, 2nd ed. Moscow-Leningrad, 1930.
Teplov, B. M. Problemy individual’nykh razlichii. Moscow, 1961.
Meili, R. “Struktura lichnosti.” In P. Fraisse and J. Piaget, eds. and comps., Eksperimental’naia psikhologiia, issue 5. Moscow, 1975. (Translated from French.)
Leont’ev, A. N. Deiatel’nost’, soznanie, lichnost’. Moscow, 1975.
Jahrbuch der Charakterologie, vols. 1–6. Edited by E. Utitz. Berlin, 1924–29.
LeSenne, R. Traité de caractérologie. Paris, 1945.
Heiss, R. Die Lehre vom Charakter, 2nd ed. Berlin, 1949.
Klages, L. Die Grundlagen der Charakterkunde, 13th ed. Bonn, 1966.
Lersch, P. Aufbau der Person, 10th ed. Munich, 1966.
Wellek, A. Die Polartät im Aufbau des Charakters, 3rd ed. Bern-Munich, 1966.
Arnold, W. Person, Charakter, Persönlichkeit, 3rd ed. Göttingen, 1969.
(2) In linguistics, a school of linguistic typology that arose in the Linguistic Circle of Prague, headed by V. Skalička.
Linguistic characterology proceeds from the theory that, of all the potential structural-typological features, or characteristics, of a given language, essentially only those that may be regarded as mutually conditioned or mutually compatible are actually realized in each language. In addition, the combination of certain structural features in a given language may be neutral. The sum of all the mutually conditioned characteristics, constituting the general type or character of a language, predetermines the relative stability of its structure. Thus an isolating type of language commonly combines such features as marked opposition between root and auxiliary (word-changing and word-forming) elements, brevity of words, a limited number of categories of parts of speech, weakly expressed agreement, fewness of compound words, and firmly fixed word order.


Skalička, V. “O sovremennom sostoianii tipologii.” In the collection Novoe v lingvistike, issue 3. Moscow, 1963. (Translated from Czech.)
Skalička, V. “Tipologiia i tozhdestvennost’ iazykov.” In the collection lssledovaniia po strukturnoi tipologii. Moscow, 1963.
Skalička, V. “K voprosu o tipologii.” Voprosy iazykoznaniia, 1966, no. 4.
Skalčka, V. Vývoj jazyka. Prague, 1960.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Of the latter only Ludwig Klages' vitalistic and anti-rationalistic characterology was widely acclaimed.
Allport's definition), and to a history of characterology. In passing, it may be said that Allport's definition of personality turns out to be a definition of individuality, a distinction which, if it had been made and consistently adopted, would have clarified the treatment for the reader.
Weininger is the influence Simon Tyler detects in his critical analysis of the characterology in Elias Canetti's Die Blendung, concluding that whereas Therese is irredeemably awful, the male figures are satirized less for their Weiningeresque pretensions than for failing to achieve them, so that the novel is more homage to Weininger than satire of him.
Freud never developed a characterology of the oral type to match that of the anal.
Potentially fascinating material on the theory of the body's humors is also purged of its historical specificity in order to serve purely formalist ends: "I am preparing a tool, out of Renaissance odds and ends," he writes, "with which I might examine one of its own products (Hamlet) from the modern standpoint of personality theory, or characterology" (73).
Freud himself, it seems to me, in his early theorizing, at the moment when he was so adventurously exploring his own bisexuality in the letters to Fliess and The Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, was more interested in pathology types (or what he called "the choice of neurosis") and general characterology than he was later, when he became more rigidly masculine in his identifications and more inclined than ever to present women as failed men.
A vivid example of this ambivalence is in the preface's much-cited passage on modernist characterology, in which the choice of imagery (and its ostentatious proliferation) suggests an overleaping of Zola's earnest positivism into something much like Brechtian irony: "I have noticed that what interests people most nowadays is the psychological action.
Without wishing to overestimate the social and political effects of a genre such as the campus/academic novel or a single text such as Magpie and for all the latter's clever interweaving of different narrative voices and the accompanying characterology, there is a worrying cousensus (or lack of difference) effected by the techniques of construction and presentation of women characters and the gender relations into which they are inserted and by which they are (here fictively) subjected.
Known as a practitioner of "metafiction," he often focused attention on the machinery of fiction itself, but never lost sight of how story-telling functions to show us "the way we live now." Indeed, he could often weave together an astonishing amount of mundane information, thematic development, and surprisingly perceptive characterology in stories that seldom exceeded a length of four or five pages.
The new world could no longer be read, it had to be deciphered, and the new theater, even more than the growing literature of characterology, was in the most privileged position to explore it.
The key term in McNair's book is "characterology," which she defines as a theory of the study of man based on the belief that "moral character can be deduced from an examination of a person's external manifestations, such as appearance, behavior, or aesthetic endeavor." McNair does not give a direct Chinese counterpart for this term; xiangshu or physiognomy might be related to it.
Jose Antonio Laburu, one of the Jesuits' most eloquent preachers, used his specialized talents in psychology, psychobiology, and characterology to lecture with great success at San Sebastian in April and June of 1932 against the mental contagion at Ezkioga.