A person who is very competitive, impatient, hostile, or just stressed is often said to have a type A personality. These people are often also highly organized workaholics, who may be very successful at their jobs, but the traits that most identify type A personalities are high stress levels, impatience, and often hostility. It is often hypothesized that type A's have low self-esteem, but since most Americans have low self-esteem, we should be careful not to confuse correlation with causation.

People with this personality type are more likely than others to have problems with hypertension and heart disease. This is likely caused by the feelings of hostility and stress found in many type A personalities, and not something that will be a problem to 'happy' type A's. Many modern psychologists consider the type A/B classification to be outdated and not particularly useful.

Type A personalities are often contrasted to Type B personalities, people who are relaxed and easy-going. Since obviously there are many people who don't fit neatly and obviously into either category, some people speak of a Type AB personality. There is also a Type T personality (risk taking behavior), and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, for those who want more detail and finesse.

Discovered by an upholsterer who had to upholster the chairs in Dr. Meyer Friedman's office more, for he specialized in heart attack patients, who always sat on the edge of their seats, anxious to what would happen next. Type A personality is defined by three main traits...

  1. An exaggerated sense of time urgency
  2. Competitiveness and ambition
  3. Agressiveness and hostility, particularly when things get in their way.

source: Abnormal Psychology by Martin E. P. Seligman, Elaine F. Walker and David L. Rosenhan

(anyone find it funny the doctor's name is known but not the upholsterer?)
In the book Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything, author James Gleick reveals some interesting facts about the original research that produced the Type A categorization.

Gleick tells how the research was flawed without a real control group and the candidates were chosen from people who already fit the profile. If they smoked, checked their watch numerous times during the interview, or were in a high stress job, they were chosen for the test, thereby skewing the findings. Also, the Type B personalities were never clearly defined either. The people who were found to be Type B were mainly people who were not like Type A. If they were not highly stressed or seemingly didn't care much about time they were considered Type B.

Finally, according to Gleick, while popular media, management theory speakers, and stress management gurus picked up on the Type A and Type B categories in the original research, they neglected to mention a third group, the Type C personality. This group was found to have no concern at all about time or stress. The group was composed of a half-dozen blind unemployed guys from San Francisco where the original research was done.

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