To use all functions of this page, please activate cookies in your browser.
With an accout for my.bionity.com you can always see everything at a glance – and you can configure your own website and individual newsletter.
- My watch list
- My saved searches
- My saved topics
- My newsletter
The three somatotypes—endomorphic, mesomorphic, and ectomorphic—are basic classifications of animal body types according to the prominence of different basic tissues types, roughly: digestive, muscular, and nervous tissues. They form the core of a theory, developed in the 1940s by American psychologist William Sheldon, associating body types with human temperament types. This linkage is fairly simplistic and is seen as outdated in physiological science, but the account of somatotypes is still probably a valid, if limited way to sort basic body types.
He concluded that the physique of men can be divided into the contribution of three fundamental elements: the somatotypes. He named his somatotypes after the three germ layers of embryonic development: the endoderm, that develops into the digestive tract, the mesoderm, that is to become muscle, heart and blood vessels, and the ectoderm that is to form the nervous system. Sheldon’s “somatotypes” and their (presumed and supposed) associated psychological traits can be summarised as follows:
In his book, Atlas of Men, Sheldon categorised all possible body types according to a scale ranging from 1 to 7 for each of the somatotypes, where the pure endomorph is 7–1–1, the pure mesomorph 1–7–1 and the pure ectomorph scores 1–1–7. From type number, an individual’s mental characteristics could supposedly be predicted. Sheldon's research showed that a predisposition towards criminality might be influenced by a somatotype high in endomorphy and intermediate in mesomorphy, and in contrast, a predisposition towards suicidality might be influenced by a somatotype high in ectomorphy; on the other hand, ectomorphs were found to be more common in mental institutions.
Additional recommended knowledge
Some of this is useful in general and human biology, if weak behavioral science. Advanced triploblastic animals, such as mammals, or modern humans in particular, do have these three basic tissue layers. Sheldon himself was more a behavioral psychologist than either an anatomist or a physiologist. His behavioral conclusions were based largely on interviews which he or his students carried out over a long span of time, and the actual psychometric data was often more suggestive than conclusive. The physical traits are still a useful way of defining body types, and filtered of these conclusions, may provide a base-line for future research.
The three body type descriptions could be explained as differences in body composition, which can be altered by specific diets and training techniques.
After a period of significant weight loss, a person who was once considered an endomorph may begin to instead resemble an ectomorph (see Rhea Bhadresha, during the period 1999-2006). Likewise, an athletic mesomorph may begin to look more like an endomorph as he ages and loses muscle mass.
However, some aspects of the Somatotype cannot be changed, for example, a characteristic of an endomorphic body type is wide shoulders as well as a wide waist. Ectomorphs may have narrower shoulders and slimmer waists. Although, muscle and adipose mass can be changed, the bone structures associated with endomorphs, ectomorphs and mesomorphs means completely changing between two somatotypes is not always possible.
Stereotypes of somatotypes
There is evidence that people with different physiques are targeted by cultural stereotypes. For example, one study found that endomorphs are likely to be perceived as slow, sloppy, and lazy. Mesomorphs, in contrast, are typically stereotyped as popular and hardworking, whereas ectomorphs are often viewed as intelligent but fearful. Stereotypes of mesomorphs are generally much more favorable than those of endomorphs. Stereotypes of ectomorphs are somewhat mixed.
Reaction against somatotype theory and research
The majority of scientists today generally consider these theories from the 1930s and 1940s outdated. Sheldon's theories had popularity through the 1950s. Some saw in the somatotypes a link to eugenics and racial hygiene. Sheldon's 4,000 photographs of nude Yale undergraduates and other similar photographs were destroyed. The words endomorphic, mesomorphic and ectomorphic are still sometimes used to describe body types, maybe especially in association with weight training aimed at gaining muscle. In some types of New Age there is an interest in this kind of correlation between physiology and psyche.
Sheldon's ideas were a variation on an old idea, beginning with Aristotle's concept of the "vegetative soul". Different versions of the notion are attracting new interest. Harvard psychologist Jerome Kagan has convincingly shown the existence of inborn temperament across diverse cultures, linking cardinal traits to neurochemical activation patterns involving the autonomic nervous system. Antonio Damasio's theory of frontal lobe function, the somatic markers hypothesis, posits goal-directed behavior as primarily directed by heavy somatosensory input from the internal milieu. It is not a large leap to consider a role for different patterns of somatosensory input in persons with different body types.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Somatotype". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|