Human Body

Introduction and Historical Background

What are the types of human body shapes?

The best known example of body typing (classifying body shape in terms of physiological functioning, behavior, and disease resistance) was devised by American psychologist William Herbert Sheldon (1898–1977). Sheldon’s system, known as somatotyping, distinguishes three types of body shapes, ignoring overall size: endomorph, mesomorph, and ectomorph. The extreme endomorph tends to be spherical: a round head, a large, fat abdomen, weak penguin-like arms and legs, with heavy upper arms and thighs but slender wrists and ankles. The extreme mesomorph is characterized by a massive cubical head, broad shoulders and chest, and heavy muscular arms and legs. The extreme ectomorph has a thin face, receding chin, high forehead, a thin, narrow chest and abdomen, and spindly arms and legs. In Sheldon’s system there are mixed body types, determined by component ratings. Sheldon assumed a close relationship between body build and behavior and temperament. This system of body typing has many critics.


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