The blood type personality theory is a pseudoscientific belief prevalent in Japan which states that a person's blood group system is predictive of a person's personality, temperament, and compatibility with others. The theory is generally considered a superstition by the scientific community.
One of the reasons Japan developed the blood type personality indicator theory was in reaction to a claim from German scientist Emil von Dungern, that Blood type B people were inferior. The popular belief originates with publications by Masahiko Nomi in the 1970s.
Although some medical hypotheses have been proposed in support of blood type personality theory, the scientific community generally dismisses blood type personality theories as superstition or pseudoscience because of lack of evidence or testable criteria. Although research into the causal link between blood type and personality is limited, the majority of modern studies do not demonstrate any statistically significant association between the two. Some studies suggest that there is a statistically significant relationship between blood type and personality, although it is unclear if this is simply due to a self-fulfilling prophecy.
According to popular belief, people with type A blood are friendly and kind, people with type B are spontaneous and creative, and people with type O are confident and aggressive. In a logical extension of this system, those with type AB are a mix of stereotypical A and B traits.
The idea that personality traits were inherited through the blood dates as far back as Aristotle. Hippocrates also sought to link personality biologically, linking traits with the four bodily humors – sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric, and melancholic.
In 1926, Rin Hirano and Tomita Yashima published the article "Blood Type Biological Related" in the Army Medical Journal.
In 1927, Takeji Furukawa, a professor at Tokyo Women's Teacher's School, published his paper "The Study of Temperament Through Blood Type" in the scholarly journal Psychological Research. The idea quickly took off with the Japanese public despite Furukawa's lack of credentials, and the militarist government of the time commissioned a study aimed at breeding ideal soldiers. The study used ten to twenty people for the investigation, thereby failing to meet the statistical requirements for generalizing the results to the wider population.
On the other hand, in 1934, Fisher announced the chi-squared test, which is very popular at present, for the first time. Several scholars said that they found statistically significant differences in analyzing Japanese work conducted at that time.
In another study, Furukawa compared the distribution of blood types among two ethnic groups: the Formosans in Taiwan and the Ainu of Hokkaidō. His motivation for the study appears to have come from a political incident: After the Japanese occupation of Taiwan following Japan's invasion of China in 1895, the inhabitants tenaciously resisted their occupiers. Insurgencies in 1930 and 1931 resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Japanese settlers.
The purpose of Furukawa's studies was to "penetrate the essence of the racial traits of the Taiwanese, who recently revolted and behaved so cruelly." Based on a finding that 41.2% of Taiwanese samples had type O blood, Furukawa assumed that the Taiwanese rebelliousness was genetic. His reasoning was supported by the fact that among the Ainu, whose temperament was characterized as submissive, only 23.8% is type O. In conclusion, Furukawa suggested that the Japanese should increase intermarriage with the Taiwanese to reduce the number of Taiwanese with type O blood.
Interest in the theory was revived in the 1970s with a book by Masahiko Nomi, a journalist with no medical background (he graduated from the engineering department of the University of Tokyo). Few Japanese psychologists criticized him at that time, so he continued to demonstrate statistically significant data in various fields and published several books with these results. Later after his death in 1981, Masahiko Nomi's work was said to be largely uncontrolled and anecdotal, and the methodology of his conclusions was unclear. Because of this, he was heavily criticized by the Japanese psychological community, although his books remain popular. His son, Toshitaka Nomi, continued to promote the theory with a series of books and by running the Institute of Blood Type Humanics. He later established the Human Science ABO Center for further research and publication in 2004.
Background and criticism
Kengo Nawata, a Japanese social psychologist, statistically analyzed three data sets of over 10,000 Japanese and American people in total. However, 65 of the 68 items yielded non-significant differences between blood types and the other three items showed relatively slight relationships. Therefore, the blood type explained only 0.3% of the whole differences of these data sets. This result suggests that blood type explained very little of people's personalities. Nawata concluded that there is no relevance of blood type for personality.
Controversial statistically significant data
However, some academic researchers have shown several statistically significant data in Japan and Korea. Akira Sakamoto and Kenji Yamazaki, Japanese social psychologists, analyzed 32,347 samples of annual opinion polls from 1978 through 1988. These results indicated that Japanese blood-typical stereotypes influenced their self-reported personalities – like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Cosy Muto and Masahiro Nagashima et al. (Nagasaki University) conducted a supplementary survey of Yamazaki and Sakamoto in 2011. They demonstrated that significant and the same difference in personalities between blood-types by using the same database as Samamoto and Yamazaki used. In the 1990s, the difference due to blood types was stabilized and variances became smaller. Then in the 2000s, the difference was statistically significant, too. However, the effect magnitude was extremely small, despite 'significance' in the statistical sense.
Another Japanese social psychologist, Shigeyuki Yamaoka (Shotoku University), announced results of his questionnaires, which were conducted in 1999 (1,300 subjects) and 2006 (1,362 subjects), In both cases, the subjects were university students, and only subjects with enough knowledge of and belief in the "blood-type diagnosis" showed meaningful differences. He concluded that these differences must be the influence of mass media, especially TV programs. Yamaoka later examined 6,660 samples from 1999 through 2009 in total and found the same result.
On the other hand, there are opinions that the statistically meaningful differences according to the blood types are not explained only by beliefs, nor are they a self-fulfilling prophecy. In Japan, the penetration rate of blood-typical personality traits was investigated. Yoriko Watanabe, a Japanese psychologist (then Hokkaido University), chose "well-known" traits and found most traits were known to no more than half of Japanese (subjects were university students). A Japanese writer, Masayuki Kanazawa, analyzed these blood-typical traits in combination with data from Yamaoka (1999) that used the same items of Watanabe's penetration survey. If blood-typical differences are caused by penetration (or their self-recognition), the rate of differences of a trait is proportional to the rate of its penetration. However, Kanazawa was not able to discover any association with blood-type differences and penetration rates. This result raises doubt about the role of beliefs and self-fulfilling prophecy.
Most reports that demonstrated statistical correlation attribute differences to a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, no study directly proved the existence of "self-fulfillment". Therefore, the opinions of researchers are varied at present:
- Whether there is a statistical correlation or not;
- Whether any statistical correlations are superficial, being caused by subjects' self-fulfilling prophecy, or if they are truly caused by the blood type.
In a 2021 Japanese study, ANOVA results of a 6,000-population large-scale survey showed that respondents displayed the personality traits corresponding to their own blood type more strongly than respondents who had different blood types did. This finding was consistent across all traits, and all differences were statistically significant. The same differences in scores were found in the groups who reported no blood type personality knowledge, although the values were smaller.
Blood-type personality and the five-factor model
The five-factor model tests were carried out in several countries, including Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, after the year 2000. These tests were intended to digitize self-ratings of the "big five" personality traits. It was expected that differences in self-reported personalities (a self-fulfilling prophecy) would be detected from the subject who believed in blood-typical stereotypes. As a result, researchers found no meaningful statistical difference.
So Ho Cho, a Korean psychologist (Yonsei University), and the others carried out a questionnaire about blood-typical items to subjects and discovered statistical differences as expected. However, the difference was not found when the five-factor model for big five personality traits was administered to the same subjects. Another Korean researcher Sohn (Yonsei University) re-analyzed Cho's data. He found that several independent items of the big five personality test detected differences according to each blood-typical stereotype. However, these differences became extinct in the process of plural items being gathered to five factors (big five). If these results are correct, the five-factor model test cannot detect differences between the blood types – if such a causal link did indeed exist.
In 2014, a Korean matchmaking company 듀오 Duo conducted a research survey closely examined 3,000 couples and found that blood type had no significant impact on the possibility of a couple getting married.
In 2017, a meta-analysis of studies, using the Big Five personality test, involving 260,861 subjects found that six genes affected human personality. However, the coefficient of determination was as low as 0.04%. This is usually considered to be an error.
Studies of blood distribution in various fields
In order to avoid the influence of "contamination by knowledge", a Japanese psychologist group published a series of studies, but no significant differences were found except for Japanese prime ministers. Later, it was reported that significant differences were found not only for prime ministers, but also for foreign ministers, education ministers, professional baseball hitters, and soccer players in Japan.
Brain waves and light topography
Kim and Yi (Seoul University of Venture & Information) measured the brain waves of 4,636 adults. They reported that type O people were most stress-resistant.
In Japan, discussion of blood types is widely popular in women's magazines as a way of gauging relationship compatibility with a potential or current partner. Morning television shows feature blood type horoscopes, and similar horoscopes are published daily in newspapers. The blood types of celebrities are listed in their infoboxes on Japanese Wikipedia. A series of four books that describe people's character by blood type ranked third, fourth, fifth, and ninth on a list of best-selling books in Japan in 2008 compiled by Tohan Corporation.
No less than two-thirds of the respondents, hailing from Chinese speaking East Asian countries and areas, believe in the association between blood types and personality.
Furthermore, according to one Japanese survey, more than half of the Japanese respondents are fond of talking about blood type and personality. The research also says that people in Japan like blood-typical personality diagnosis and 1. talk about it with proper knowledge, 2. believe some relationships exist between blood type and personality, 3. feel its traits apply to themselves to a certain degree. The results of the two other surveys are the same.
Although there is no proven correlation between blood type and personality, it remains popular with the many matchmaking services that cater to blood type. In this way, it is similar to the use of astrological signs, which are also popular in Japan. Asking one's blood type is common in Japan, and people are often surprised when a non-Japanese does not know their blood type.
It is common among anime and manga authors to mention their characters' blood types and to give their characters blood types to match their personalities. Some video game characters have known blood types. Also, it is common for video game series to allow for blood type as an option in their creation modes.
After then-Reconstruction Minister Ryu Matsumoto's abrasive comments towards the governors of Iwate and Miyagi forced him to step down from his post, he partially blamed his behavior on his blood type, saying "My blood is type B, which means I can be irritable and impetuous, and my intentions don't always come across."
Blood types are important in South Korea as well. The Korean webcomic A Simple Thinking About Blood Type depicts the stereotypes of each blood type and has been adapted as a short anime series in Japan as Ketsuekigata-kun! in 2013 and 2015.
Blood type harassment, called bura-hara (wasei-eigo: a portmanteau of blood and harassment), has been blamed for bullying of children in playgrounds, loss of job opportunities, and ending of happy relationships.
Many people in Japan and Korea have been discriminated against because of their blood type. Employers ask blood types during interviews despite the warnings they have been given. Children at schools have been split up according to their blood type. The national softball team has customized training to fit each player's blood type. Companies have given work assignments according to their employee's blood type.
However, these episodes are thought to be more or less exaggerated – as well as horoscope addiction in Europe or the US, which is sometimes reported in Japan. No blood-type harassment trials have been reported, so far. In reality, most Japanese people do not think blood types determine their personalities, but rather affect them to some degree.
- Barnum effect
- Blood type diet
- Zodiac signs—Western equivalent using the positions of stars on a person's birthday to indicate or predict their personality.
- Davis, Matt (25 March 2019). "What is the Japanese blood type theory of personality?". Big Think. Retrieved 19 July 2020.
- Yamaguchi, Mari (6 May 2005). "Myth about Japan blood types under attack". MediResource Inc. Archived from the original on 28 December 2009. Retrieved 29 December 2007.
- Takeji Furukawa (1927), 血液型と気質 Blood Type and Temperament - in Europe, type A was more common than type B, while in Asia type B was more prevalent. Von Dungren claimed A people are superior to B people. Because Asia had more B people than some parts of Europe, the inference was that Asia was inferior (along with European B's) A Japanese scholar, Takeji Furukawa opposed that idea and asserted that B persons were active while A persons were passive.
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- Kengo Nawata (2014), No relationship between blood type and personality: Evidence from large-scale surveys in Japan and the US Archived 2021-12-17 at the Wayback Machine, The Japanese Journal of Psychology, 85(2), 148–156.
- Sakamoto, A., & Yamazaki, K. (2004), Blood-typical personality stereotypes and self-fulfilling prophecy: A natural experiment with time-series data of 1978–1988. Archived 2016-01-22 at the Wayback Machine, Progress in Asian Social Psychology, Vol. 4, 239–262.
- Yamazaki, K., & Sakamoto, A. (1992), 血液型ステレオタイプによる自己成就現象II－全国調査の時系列分析－ The self-fulfillment phenomenon generated by blood-typical personality stereotypes: time-series analysis of nation-wide survey II, Paper presented at the 33rd annual convention of the Japanese society of social psychology. Tokyo (pp. 342–345).
- Cosy Muto, Masahiro Nagashima et al. (2011), A Demonstrative and Critical Study on Pseudo-science for Scientific Literacy Construction at Teacher Education Course[permanent dead link], FY2011 Final Research Report from the Database of Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research - neither exact number of samples nor years was specified in the report
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- e.g. Masao Omura (Nihon University) in "血液型と性格 Blood Type and Personality", Terumitsu Maekawa (Asia University) in "血液型人間学 Blood Type Humanics" and so on.
- Becker, Peter (Ed.); Yoji Nakatani (2006). "The Birth of Criminology in Modern Japan". Criminals and their Scientists: The History of Criminology in International Perspective (Publications of the German Historical Institute). Cambridge University Press. p. 294. ISBN 978-0-521-81012-8.
- Toshinori Shirasa & Takuji Iguchi (1993), 血液型性格研究入門 血液型と性格は関係ないと言えるのか An introduction to Blood Type Personality Research – Can we say there is no relationship with blood type and personality?, pp. 209–212, 242–243. Virtually no papers nor books about blood type and personality was published from the Japanese psychological community before Masahiko Nomi's death in 1981.
- Masahiko Nomi analyzed various data by using statistical methods and found meaningful traits; the following are some of his works.
- Blood Type Affinity Study 5/1974 – 20,000 samples analyzed in total
- Blood Type Sports Study 10/1976 – 1,000 track-and-field athletes analyzed
- Blood Type Essence 6/1977 – listed over 1,000 people (politicians, CEOs, artists, etc.)
- Blood Type Politics Study 6/1978 – 2,000 politicians analyzed (all representatives of the national Diet, all governors, and all mayors)
- D'Adamo, Peter J. (2002). The Eat Right for Your Type: Complete Blood Type Encyclopedia. Riverhead Trade. p. 28. ISBN 978-1-57322-920-3.
- Evans, Ruth (4 November 2012). "Japan and blood types: Does it determine personality?". BBC News. Retrieved 5 November 2012.
- Shigeyuki Yamaoka (1999), 血液型ステレオタイプが生み出す血液型差別の研究 A Study on Blood Harassment Caused by Blood-typical Stereotypes, Paper presented at the 40th annual convention of the Japanese society of social psychology. Tokyo. For further information of this paper, confer to Shigeyuki Yamaoka (2001), ダメな大人にならないための心理学 A Psychology Book for not to Become a Useless Adult, pp. 35–73 ISBN 4-89242-665-2
- Shigeyuki Yamaoka (2006), 血液型性格項目の自己認知に及ぼすＴＶ番組視聴の影響 Influence of Watching TV programs to One's Self-recognition of the Blood-type personality Items Paper presented at the 47th annual convention of the Japanese society of social psychology. Tokyo.
- Shigeyuki Yamaoka (2009), 血液型性格判断の差別性と虚妄性(自主企画(2)) Segregation and falsehood of blood-type personality analysis[permanent dead link], self planning session (2) at the 18th annual convention of the Japanese society of personality psychology.
- Watanabe, Y. (1994). 血液型ステレオタイプ形成におけるプロトタイプとイグゼンブラの役割 The roles of prototype and exemplar in the formation of the "blood type stereotype" Archived 2014-08-19 at the Wayback Machine. Japanese Journal of Social Psychology, 10–2, 77–86. She extracted 7 traits for each 4 blood types, 28 in total, which were common to three or more "blood type diagnosis" books. 20 items of all 28 showed less than 50% penetration (the average is 46.1%).
- Masayuki Kanazawa (2014), 統計でわかる血液型人間学入門 An Introduction to Blood Type Humanics - Understanding by Statistics, Gentosha Runaissance ISBN 978-4-7790-1109-2 pp. 16–36
- Kanazawa, M. (2021). A Pilot Study Using AI for Psychology: ABO Blood Type and Personality Traits Archived 2021-04-07 at the Wayback Machine. American Journal of Intelligent Systems, 11(1), 7–12.
- So Hyun Cho, Eun Kook M. Suh, Yoen Jung Ro (2005), Beliefs about Blood Types and Traits and Their Reflections in Self-reported Personality Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine, Korean Journal of Social and Personality Psychology, 19(4), 37–47.
- Yoshio Kubo, Yukiko Miyake (2011), 血液型と性格の関連についての調査的研究 Correlation between blood types and personalities Archived 2014-08-19 at the Wayback Machine Bulletin of Kibi International University (Department of Social Welfare), 21, 93–100.
- Sung Il Ryu, Young Woo Sohn (2007), A Review of Sociocultural, Behavioral, Biochemical Analyses on ABO Blood-Groups Typology Archived 2022-02-27 at the Wayback Machine, The Korean Journal of Social and Personality Psychology
- Masayuki Kanazawa (2018), Blood Type and Personality 3.0 – Reality Proved by 300,000 People and AI, CreateSpace ISBN 978-1-9866-2381-0 pp. 119–122. This book analyzed 14 reports of the "Big Five" test and obtained no consistent result.
- "What's your blood type? What a small face! Odd Korean questions & compliments". Hyphe-Nated. Retrieved 11 September 2021.
- Lo, Min-Tzu; Hinds, David; Tung, Joyce (2017). "Genome-wide analyses for personality traits identify six genomic loci and show correlations with psychiatric disorders". Nature Genetics. 49 (1): 152–156. doi:10.1038/ng.3736. PMC 5278898. PMID 27918536.
- Ohmura, M.; Ukiya, S.; Fujita, S. (2013). "Is the "Blood Type Personality Theory" Reliable? (Part 30) I – Do Members of the House of Representatives Show Blood Type Characteristics?". Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Japan Association of Applied Psychology. 80: 61.
- Ukiya, S.; Ohmura, M.; Fujita, S. (2013). "Is the "Blood Type Personality Theory" Reliable? (Part 30) II – Blood type distribution of Japanese and Korean celebrities". Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Japan Association of Applied Psychology. 80: 62.
- Fujita, S.; Ohmura, M.; Ukiya, S. (2013). "Is the "Blood Type Personality Theory" Reliable? (Part 30) III – Can we see blood type traits in athletes?". Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Japan Association of Applied Psychology. 80: 63.
- Ukiya, S.; Ohmura, M.; Fujita, S. (2014). "Is the "Blood Type Personality Theory" Reliable? (Part 31) – Blood types of Japanese sumo wrestlers". Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Japan Association of Applied Psychology. 81: 53.
- Masayuki Kanazawa (2021). "Linkage between ABO Blood Type and Occupation: Evidence from Japanese Politicians and Athletes". International Journal of Social Science Studies. 9 (5): 104–111. doi:10.11114/ijsss.v9i5.5282.
- Choong-Shik Kim, Seon-Gyu Yi (2011), A Study on the effects of one's blood type on emotional character and antistress of adults Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine, Journal of the Korea Academia-Industrial cooperation Society, 12(6), 2554–2560. According to this article "meaningful difference had been revealed between the blood type and stress resistancy; type O rated higher scores in awareness and stress resistancy then other types. ..."
- "Type Cast: The Japanese Fascination with Blood Types". Archived from the original on 2012-06-19. Retrieved 21 July 2012.
- Blood Types – Do They Shape a Personality or Mere Stereotypes Archived 2015-11-17 at the Wayback Machine, Natsuko Fukue, The Japan Times, December 31, 2008
- "(PDF) Blood type and the five factors of personality in Asia". dokumen.tips. Retrieved 2023-10-11.
- Reiko Yamashita (2008), 血液型性格判断はなぜすたれないのか why doesn't blood type in Japanense culture detariorate? Archived August 26, 2014, at the Wayback Machine, Paper presented at the 48th annual convention of the Japanese society of social psychology.
- The following are results of two Japanese surveys:
- Yahoo! Research (December 25, 2008)『「血液型本」に関する調査』 A survey about "blood type books" – "My personality is appropriately expressed so that sympathized, convinced" (66%), "Can grasp my personality objectively with new discovery" (59%), "One of the means and the methods to express my personality" (50%), "Useful in acquaintances" (48%) and "Useful in love-affiliated things" (47%).
- Yumiko Kamise, Yutaka Matsui (1996), 血液型ステレオタイプ変容の形 ―ステレオタイプ変容モデルの検証― Changing processes of stereotype on blood-groups, Japanese Journal of Social Psychology, 11–13, 170–179. – "blood-typical personality diagnosis is a fun" (83.6%), "I like blood-typical personality diagnosis" (61.5%).
- In Japan, you are what your blood type is, Japan Today
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- Nomi, Toshitaka, and Alexander Besher, You Are Your Blood Type: The Biochemical Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Your Personality. New York: Pocket Books, 1988. ISBN 0-671-63342-2.
- Sakamoto, A.; Yamazaki, K. (2004). "Blood-typical personality stereotypes and self-fulfilling prophecy: A natural experiment with time-series data of 1978–1988" (PDF). Progress in Asian Social Psychology. 4: 239–262. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-01-22. Retrieved 2014-08-12.