This page discusses 'blood type' psychology, a contemporary
counterpart of pseudo-scientific character identification
systems such as phrenology and physiognomy.
It covers -
supplements discussion elsewhere on this site regarding
Identity and Biometrics.
If theorists of physiognomy and phrenology believed that
"what's bred in the bone" is destiny (with character
being innate rather than a matter of nurture and circumstance)
enthusiasts for 'blood type psychology' believe that blood
is appropriately recognised through opportunity (eg
job and partner selection) and thus
determines an individual's fate.
Pseudo-scientific claims about a crucial relationship
between 'character' (attributes such as reliability, coldness
or empathy, emotional lability, analytical and creative
aptitudes, 'leadership') emerged after Karl Landsteiner's
epochal discovery of blood groups - aka blood types or
phenotypes - at the turn of last century.
The striking absence of an empirical basis for assertions
by eugenicists (eg academics associated with the controversial
Pioneer Fund in the US) and racists (most egregiously
through Nazi proponents of 'social prophylaxis', ie genocide)
has not deterred popular and commercial acceptance in
Japan and South Korea of the notion that personality types
are determined through blood groups. Identify an individual's
group - A, B, O or AB - and you have supposedly determined
that person's -
as a partner, an executive or an employee (eg trustworthiness,
self-control and independence)
attributes (eg friendliness, consistency, diligence)
attributes (eg creativity, persistence, problem solving).
notion combines a dash of fin de siecle psychologising
(eg Jungian typologies such as introversion), with cultural
preconceptions and some raw physiology. It has led some
observers to refer to blood type psychology as the Japanese
version of astrology,
dismissed by scientists but embraced by the mass media,
consumers and many businesses.
Unsurprisingly, it has drifted across the Pacific and
been repackaged by US new age healers as a guide for good
living, including decisions about diet, exercise routines
and the selection of partners. We can thus expect to see
more references to a modern form of the 'humours' discussed
by Galen, Paracelsus and their contemporaries, with zealots
offering a zodiac-style typology such as
A - people with Type A Blood are "calm,
composed, level-headed and serious", with "a
firm character". They are "reliable and trustworthy
... think things over and make plans carefully".
B - those with Type B Blood are "curious
about and interested in everything" but "tend
to have too many interests and hobbies, and they tend
to get all excited about something suddenly and then
later drop it again just as quickly". B Types "tend
to excel in things rather than just be average. They
have the image of being bright and cheerful, full of
energy and enthusiasm".
O - people supposedly "set the
mood for a group and ... take on the role of creating
harmony among its members". They are easygoing,
big-hearted, peaceful and carefree but "have a
stubborn and strong-willed side ... and tend to secretly
have their own opinions on things". [Nothing like
a characterisation that fits all circumstances] O Types
are "generally loved by all", "easily
influenced by others or by what they see on television"
and "often slip ... the point that makes O Types
AB - those with Type AB Blood "are
said to have a delicate sensitivity", are considerate
and deal with care but are strict on themselves and
their close associates. "They often become sentimental,
and they tend to think too deeply". AB people have
a lot of friends but "need time to be alone and
think things through".
Acceptance of 'Blood type psychology' offers a perspective
on how we conceptualise identity (in particular how we
conceptualise 'character'), the nature of belief and the
assimilation of science in popular culture.
Japanese notions of a fundamental link between personality
and blood group appear to date from publication during
the late 1920s iof claims by sociologist Furukawa Takeji
(1891–1940) and Furuhata Tanemoto - now best known
as a forensic odontologist - at a time when research into
blood types was new, exciting and eminently publishable.
Furukawa's salient work appeared in the Japanese Journal
of Criminology during 1931. He asserted that there
were two personality categories: a passive category (with
those of blood group A or AB being generally mild tempered,
even languid, and intellectual) and an active category
(those of blood type 0 and B were hot-tempered, energetic,
non-reflective and even primitive). That categorisation
was taken by enthusiasts as dividing humanity into 'good'
and 'evil', 'followers' and 'leaders', 'civilised' and
'primitive', 'Japanese' and 'others'.
Those ideas were not particularly original. German academic
Emil von Dungern (1867-1961) for example had offered an
"anthropology of blood types" to underpin claims
of racial superiority. Von Dungern asserted that the undiluted
blood of the 'European races' (ie Germans) was type A,
an inner embodiment of the outward identity represented
by the blond-haired and blue-eyed Aryan. (His supporters
were unfazed by the failure of most of the Nazi leadership
to match that image). He also claimed that the 'Asiatic
races' (with black hair and black eyes) possessed type
B blood, leading to the conclusion that anyone with type
B blood was not of entirely 'European' ancestry.
Furukawa's claims reached a receptive audience, with reports
for example that a box for identification of blood group
appeared on many Japanese recruitment forms from 1930
onwards (on the basis that the information would aid evaluation
of a candidate’s employment and promotion potential).
Asada Hajime (1887-1952), a forensic medicine specialist
now best known as a pioneering sexologist or as inventor
of the first Japanese polygraph, claimed that office workers
and finance executives were predominantly Type A, primary
and secondary school teachers were usually of group AB,
most students at military academies were group O, and
geisha and detectives were predominantly B and O. Supposedly
no Japanese detective was Type A. Asada concluded that
A or AB was the best blood type for retail staff, B or
AB was ideal for diplomats and blood group O was a prerequisite
for military leaders.
His peers took labelling a stage further, claiming that
Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya were 'active' cities (with a high
proportion of O and B blood group people), in contrast
to 'passive' Kyoto (with a high proportion of A and AB
blood). Japan's colonies - and even its northern islands
- were supposedly populated by people with the wrong blood
Furukawa's epigones, in particular journalist Nomi Masahiko
and son Nomi Toshitaka, elaborated his schema, conveniently
dispensing with analytical rigour. One report claimed
that people with O group blood were more likely to commit
violent offenses and predominated among blue-collar crime.
White-collar crime, on the other hand, was an avocation
of people with A group blood.
Japanese enthusiasts, like their German peers, sought
to link psychiatric problems to blood type or to determine
whether people with a particular blood group were physically
healthier. One report claimed that the B group was dominant
among vagrants. Atsumasa Aragaki reportedly suggested
genial and self-sacrificing type A woman is the ideal
mate for the type O man. In much the same way, the calm
and intelligent type O woman is the ideal mate for the
type A man.
Nomi's 1971 Ketsueki-gata de Wakaru Aisho (What
Blood Types Reveal about Compatibility) reportedly has
sold several million copies, with later works - often
under the auspices of the family's Institute of Blood
Type Humanics - promising to make "life a fantastic
success after only twelve minutes". That is presumably
a resonant message for consumers of red string, magic
crystals, 'energy water' and other contemporary hocus
Uptake outside Japan has seen naturopath Peter D'Adamo
promote blood groups as a mechanism for choosing the best
diet, notably in his 1996 Eat Right For Your Blood
Type. Some peers are more wild-eyed. The genre is
all very 'blood & soil', with suggestions that we
should revert to the diets of our 'ancestors' after recognising
that people with O group blood are the descendants of
hunters (and accordingly need lots of exercise and a diet
rich in meat), A group people trace their origin to "more
advanced" tillers of the soil (and thus need a vegetarian
diet with gentle exercise), B group people were traders
and need a mixed diet, AB were artisans and so forth.
Another classifies groups in terms reminiscent of 'race
& soil' theorists, with people being urged to choose
their diet and occupation on the basis that -
O people are "warriors", "the oldest
of all the blood types". "These people are
highly motivated, leaders of people. They aren’t
afraid to gamble because they are confident they can
pull it off. They have a strong physical presence and
are generally good at sport".
A are farmers, "conventional in all that they do
... considerate to other people, and find it hard to
tell lies", loyal but secretive and sometimes violent
B are "hunters", "non-conventional, ...
thick-skinned ... they can seem shallow to other people,
AB are "considered humanists", who "go
with the head rather than the heart", act as mediators
and "are also good with money".
Does such faux science matter?
One response is that belief in astrology is trivial (unless
it's being practiced by Nancy Reagan in the White House)
because it is an indulgence without consequences. In contrast,
blood type psychology in Japan has served as a mechanism
for social sorting and thereby for discrimination, given
community acceptance of the typing (evident for example
in public figures identifying their blood group in publications
such as Who's Who in Politics & Govenment
and recurrent inclusion of blood type books in bestseller
One commentator observed that
blood-type analysis is serious business. Corporate managers
use it to hire workers, market researchers use it to
predict buying habits, and most people use it to choose
friends, romantic partners, and lifetime mates.
is the basis for products targeted at the different blood
groups, including 'blood horoscopes', bath salts, music
CDs, underwear and pillows (extra soft for the sensitive
A group consumer) and chewing gum.
It is also the basis for 'life instruction' manuals, career
guidance primers and partner selection broadcasts, videos
or services (online and face to face).
phenotypes and law
New age vendors of blood type psychology services sporadically
refer to "certification" of their supposed expertise
or professionalism. That certification is self-awarded
rather than conferred by an independent body or government
agency and thus has no formal recognition by Australian
law. As of December 2008 claims by vendors do not appear
to have been tested in an Australian court.
Could someone be legitimately excluded from a job or other
opportunity on the basis of blood type psychology?
In Australia the answer is no. The pseudo-science is not
legally recognised and exclusion would breach federal
and state anti-discrimination law. For example possession
of blood group A is not an inherent requirement of a teaching
job and exclusion of people with O or AB blood would accordingly
breach the Disability Discrimination Act 1992
(Cth) and the Racial Discrimination Act 1975
The absence of a scentific basis for blood type psychology
claims has meant that there is little medical literature
from US, UK or Australian researchers, with assertions
by some Japanese researchers being treated as a curiosity
and suggestions that some Occidental researchers have
a covert racist agenda.
There is little English-language sociological literature
on popular belief regarding blood group psychology (eg
in dating sites and newspaper
lonelyhearts ads) and on recognition of that belief in
employment practices, antidiscrimination law and quasi-official
Works include 'Personality, blood type, and the five-factor
model' by Kenneth Cramer & Eiko Imaike in 32(4) Personality
and individual differences (2002), 'Blood groups
and Personality traits' by Raymond Cattell, Young &
John Hundleby in 16(4) American Journal of Human Genetics
(1964) 397-402 and 'Blood groups and personality traits'
by Cattell & Hundleby' in 24(4) American Journal
of Human Genetics (1972) 485-486, 'Blood type and
the five factors of personality in Asia' by Kunher Wu,
Kristian Lindsted & Jerry Lee in 38(4) Personality
and individual differences (2005) 797-808, 'The biological
basis of cross-cultural differences in personality: Blood
group antigens' by Hans Eysenk in 51 Psychological
Reports (1982) 531-540, 'Blood type and personality'
by Mary Rogers & Ian Glendon in 34 Personality
and Individual Differences (2003) 1099-1112.
Cattell's 1964 article was generously dismissed as nonsense
by A S Weiner in 17 American Journal of Human Genetics
(1965) 369-370, complemented by 'Beyondism: Raymond B.
Cattell and the New Eugenics' by Barry Mehler in 99 Genetica
You Are Your Blood Type (New York: Pocket Books
1983) by Nomi Toshitaka & Alexander Besher is a key
work by the leading Japanese blood type psychology evangelist
and a US science fiction writer. Among new age 'wellness'
literature see What's Your Type?: How Blood Types
Are the Keys to Unlocking Your Personality (New York:
Plume 1997) by Pete Constantine, The Answer is in
Your Bloodtype: Research Linking Your Blood Type to Life
Span, Love and Compatibility, Your Likely Illness Profile,
Diet and Exercise for Maximum Life (New York: Personal
Nutrition 1999) by Steven Weissberg & Joseph Christiano
and Eat Right For Your Type (New York: Putnam
1996) by Peter D'Adamo.
Points of entry to the literature on blood and identity
include Essential Haematology (Oxford: Blackwell
2006) by Victor Hoffbrand, Paul Moss & John Pettit,
Blood: An Epic History of Medicine and Commerce
(New York: Knopf 1999) by Douglas Starr, The Science
and Politics of Racial Research (Urbana: Uni of Illinois
Press 1994) by William Tucker and 'Blood—in All
of Its Senses—As a Cultural Resource' by Jennifer
Robertson in Cultural Resources (Oxford: Berghahn
2008) edited by Shinji Yamashita & Jerry Eades.
Perspectives on sorting and its consequences are offered
by Richard Siddle's Race, Resistance and the Ainu
of Japan (London: Routledge 1996), The Racial
State: Germany 1933-1945 (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni
Press 1991) by Michael Burleigh & Wolfgang Wippermann,
The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the
Final Solution (Chapel Hill: Uni of North Carolina
Press 1995) by Henry Friedlander, Racial Hygiene:
Medicine under the Nazis (Cambridge: Harvard Uni
Press 1988) by Robert Proctor, The Wellborn Science:
Eugenics in Germany, France, Brazil and Russia (Oxford:
Oxford Uni Press 1990) edited by Mark Adams, The Nazi
Connection: Eugenics, American Racism, and German National
Socialism (Oxford: Oxford Uni Press 1993) by Stefan
Kuhl, Murderous Science: Elimination by Scientific
Selection of Jews, Gypsies, and Others, Germany 1933-1945
(Oxford: Oxford Uni Press 1988) by Benno Müller-Hill,
In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of
Human Heredity (Cambridge: Harvard Uni Press 1995)
by Daniel Kevles, The Funding of Scientific Racism:
Wickliffe Draper and the Pioneer Fund (Urbana: Uni
of Illinois Press 2002) by William Tucker, Eugenics,
Human Genetics, and Human Failings: The Eugenics Society,
Its Sources, and Its Critics in Britain (London:
Routledge 1992) by Pauline Mazumdar and her 'Two Models
for Human Genetics: Blood Grouping and Psychiatry in Germany
Between the World Wars' in 70(4) Bulletin of the History
of Medicine (1996) 609-657, Struggle for National
Survival: Eugenics in Sino-Japanese Contexts, 1896-1945
(London: Routledge 2002) by Juliette Chung and 'The American
Eugenics Movement and the Tyranny of Scientific Expertise'
(2005) by John West.
For Australian perspectives see The Cultivation of
Whiteness: Science, Health and Racial Destiny in Australia
(New York: Basic Books 2003) by Warwick Anderson and Reading
Doctors' Writing: Race, Politics and Power in Indigenous
Health Research, 1870-1969 (Acton: Aboriginal Studies
Press 2004) by David Thomas.
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