real life

The four personality types all humans fit into, says Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin.

According to best-selling author, speaker, blogger and podcaster Gretchen Rubin, there are precisely four types of people.

In Rubin’s latest book, The Four Tendencies: The Surprising Truth About the Hidden Personality Types That Drive Everything We Do, which will be released in September of this year, she offers a new framework for personality to help people better understand themselves and influence others.

Rubin’s character index is as follows:


This group, “responds readily to outer and inner expectations”. They hate letting other people down, but they also hate letting themselves down. They are driven by routine, and are able to keep New Years Resolutions. Hermione Granger is the archetypal Upholder.

POST CONTINUES BELOW: Mia Freedman is an Upholder. We discuss the personalities on the latest episode of Mamamia Out Loud.


An obliger meets outer expectations but struggles to keep commitments they make to themselves. They are at work on time, and would rarely cancel last minute, because they sincerely do not want to let people down. They’re people pleasers. But if an obliger wanted to, say, go for a 7am run everyday, their best bet would be to enlist a friend. That way they’re motivated by an external pressure. Andre Agassi is the quintessential Obliger.


A Questioner desperately needs a justification for all expectations. They will question everything that’s required of them, and will only fulfil that expectation if it makes sense to them. Being committed to an activity, whether it’s exercise or a social outing, isn’t enough and often they experience ‘decision paralysis’. They will inevitably ask, “But why should I go?” Steve Jobs and Jane Eyre were Questioners.



Rebels are by far the smallest group – but most of us know one. They resist all expectation, and rebel against routine. They might struggle to hold down a job, exercise sporadically, and as soon as something appears to be working for them, spontaneously pull the plug. Picasso was a Rebel.

Image via NBC.

I came up, overwhelmingly, as a Questioner.

The test said, "Questioners question all expectations, and will meet an expectation only if they believe it’s justified, so in effect, they meet only inner expectations.

"Once Questioners believe that a particular habit is worthwhile, they’ll stick to it—but only if they’re satisfied about the habit’s soundness and usefulness. They resist anything arbitrary or ineffective; they accept direction only from people they respect.

"Questioners may exhaust themselves (and other people) with their relentless questioning, and they sometimes find it hard to act without perfect information.

"If you’re thinking, 'Well, right now I question the validity of the Four Tendencies framework,' yep, you’re probably a Questioner!"


I've never understood people who can get up early every morning and exercise, or those who can write a goddamn novel in their own time. If I'm given a task at work to do that I don't feel makes sense, I have a lot of trouble doing it.

You can listen to the full episode of Mamamia Out Loud, here. 


This trait isn't particularly likeable, and I can be perceived as a contrarian. But in order to meet someone else's expectations, or develop a habit, I need an answer to the 'why'. Knowing that about myself saves a great deal of frustration and breakdown in communication. If someone asks me to be at work at 7:30am tomorrow - I can be there. I just need a solid reason.

My dad has always been extremely self-disciplined, and if he decides he will cycle to work everyday - he'll do it. If he decided he was going to stand on one leg for 42 minutes every night, he'd do it. He thrives off routine, and enjoys developing habits. It doesn't matter if they make sense. He also doesn't like letting people down, and even if their expectations aren't fair, he will meet them. He values being on time, and having his bed made. Dad is the classic Upholder.

Knowing what drives our habits, and how we respond to expectations, is the key to living happier and more organised lives.

If you want to exercise everyday - the Upholder can simply tell themselves it's time for a new habit. The Obliger needs a friend to exercise with, or a class that expects them, because it appeals to their fear of not letting people down. The Questioner needs a firm WHY to tell themselves everyday, and the Rebel needs to, well, skip or cartwheel instead of run.

You can take a quiz online to determine which group you belong to, here.