Hans Jürgen Eysenck|
4 March 1916
Berlin, German Empire
4 September 1997 (aged 81)|
|Alma mater||University College London (UCL)|
intelligence, personality, Eysenck Personality Questionnaire,|
differential psychology, education,
psychiatry, behaviour therapy
Institute of Psychiatry|
King's College London
|Doctoral advisor||Cyril Burt|
|Doctoral students||Jeffrey Alan Gray, Donald Prell|
Hans Jürgen Eysenck, PhD, DSc (; 4 March 1916 - 4 September 1997) was a German-born English psychologist who spent his professional career in Great Britain. He is best remembered for his work on intelligence and personality, although he worked in a wide range of areas within psychology. At the time of his death, Eysenck was the living psychologist most frequently cited in the peer-reviewed scientific journal literature.
Eysenck was born in Berlin, Germany. His mother was Silesian-born film star Helga Molander, and his father, Eduard Anton Eysenck, was a nightclub entertainer who was once voted "handsomest man on the Baltic coast". (pp. 8-11). His mother was Lutheran and father Catholic. Eysenck was brought up by his maternal grandmother. (His grandmother was a fervent Lutheran, but after she died in a concentration camp, Eysenck ascertained that she had come from a Jewish family.) (p. 80). An initial move to England in the 1930s became permanent because of his opposition to the Nazi party. "My hatred of Hitler and the Nazis, and all they stood for, was so overwhelming that no argument could counter it." (p. 40) Because of his German citizenship, he was initially unable to gain employment, and was almost interned during the war. He received his PhD in 1940 from University College London (UCL) working in the Department of Psychology under the supervision of Professor Sir Cyril Burt, with whom he had a tumultuous professional relationship throughout his working life. (pp. 118-119).
Eysenck was Professor of Psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, from 1955 to 1983. He was a major contributor to the modern scientific theory of personality and a brilliant teacher who helped found treatment for mental illnesses. Eysenck also created and developed a distinctive dimensional model of personality structure based on empirical factor-analytic research, attempting to anchor these factors in biogenetic variation. In 1981, Eysenck became a founding member of the World Cultural Council. He was the founding editor of the international journal Personality and Individual Differences, and wrote about 80 books and more than 1600 journal articles. His son Michael Eysenck is also a noted psychology professor. Hans Eysenck died of a brain tumour in a London hospice in 1997. He was an atheist.
Examples of publications in which Eysenck's views roused controversy include (chronologically):
Eysenck's attitude was summarised in his autobiography Rebel with a Cause:"I always felt that a scientist owes the world only one thing, and that is the truth as he sees it. If the truth contradicts deeply held beliefs, that is too bad. Tact and diplomacy are fine in international relations, in politics, perhaps even in business; in science only one thing matters, and that is the facts." He was one of the signers of the Humanist Manifesto.
In this book, Eysenck suggests that political behavior may be analysed in terms of two independent dimensions: the traditional left-right distinction, and how 'tenderminded' or 'toughminded' a person is. Eysenck suggests that the latter is a result of a person's introversion or extraversion respectively.
Colleagues critiqued the research that formed the basis of this book, on a number of grounds, including the following.
By far the most acrimonious of the debates has been that over the role of genetics in IQ differences, which led to Eysenck being punched in the face by a protestor during a talk at the London School of Economics, as well as bomb threats, and threats to kill his young children. This opposition came when he supported Arthur Jensen's questioning of whether variation in IQ between racial groups was entirely environmental (see Race and intelligence).
Eysenck thought the media gave the misleading impression that his views were those of a maverick outside the mainstream scientific consensus and cited The IQ Controversy, the Media and Public Policy as showing that there was majority support for every single one of the main contentions he had put forward, further asserting that the idea there was any real debate about the matter among the relevant scientists was incorrect.
In the context of this controversy, S.A. Barnett describes Eysenck as a "prolific popularizer" and exemplifies Eysenck's writings on this topic with two passages from his early 1970s books:
All the evidence to date suggests the ... overwhelming importance of genetic factors in producing the great variety of intellectual differences which we observe in our culture, and much of the difference observed between certain racial groups.-- HJ Eysenck, Race, Intelligence and Education, 1971, London: Temple Smith, p. 130
the whole course of development of a child's intellectual capabilities is largely laid down genetically, and even extreme environmental changes ... have little power to alter this development.-- HJ Eysenck, The Inequality of Man, 1973, London: Temple Smith, pp. 111-12
Barnett quotes additional criticism of Race, Intelligence and Education from Sandra Scarr-Salapatek, who wrote in 1976 that Eysenck's book was "generally inflammatory" and that there "is something in this book to insult almost everyone except WASPs and Jews." Scarr was equally critical of Eysenck's hypotheses, one of which was the supposition that slavery on plantations had selected African Americans as a less intelligent sub-sample of Africans. Scarr also criticised another statement of Eysenck on the alleged significantly lower IQs of Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Greek immigrants in the US relative to the populations in their country of origin. "Although Eysenck is careful to say that these are not established facts (because no IQ tests were given to the immigrants or nonimmigrants in question?" Scarr writes that the careful reader would conclude that "Eysenck admits that scientific evidence to date does not permit a clear choice of the genetic-differences interpretation of black inferiority on intelligence tests," whereas a "quick reading of the book, however, is sure to leave the reader believing that scientific evidence today strongly supports the conclusion that US blacks are genetically inferior to whites in IQ." Some of Eysenck's later work was funded from the Pioneer Fund, an organization often criticised for allegedly promoting scientific racism, However, Eysenck himself was vehemently opposed to racism. As Eysenck stated, "My hatred of Hitler and the Nazis, and all they stood for, was so overwhelming that no argument could counter it (p. 40)."
He also received funding for consultation research via New York legal firm Jacob & Medinger, which was acting on behalf of the tobacco industry. Asked what he felt about tobacco industry lawyers being involved in selecting scientists for research projects, he said that research should be judged on quality, not on who paid for it, adding that he had not personally profited from the funds. According to the UK newspaper The Independent, Eysenck received more than £800k in this way. Eysenck conducted many empirical investigations elucidating the role of personality in cigarette smoking and disease.
In 1951, Eysenck's first empirical study into the genetics of personality was published. It was an investigation carried out with his student and associate Donald Prell, from 1948 to 1951, in which identical (monozygotic) and fraternal (dizygotic) twins, ages 11 and 12, were tested for neuroticism. It is described in detail in an article published in the Journal of Mental Science. Eysenck and Prell concluded that, "The factor of neuroticism is not a statistical artifact, but constitutes a biological unit which is inherited as a whole....neurotic predisposition is to a large extent hereditarily determined."
The two personality dimensions extraversion and neuroticism were described in his 1967 book Dimensions of Personality. It is common practice in personality psychology to refer to the dimensions by the first letters, E and N.
E and N provided a two-dimensional space to describe individual differences in behaviour. An analogy can be made to how latitude and longitude describe a point on the face of the earth. Also, Eysenck noted how these two dimensions were similar to the four personality types first proposed by the Greek physician Galen.
The major strength of Eysenck's model was to provide detailed theory of the causes of personality. For example, Eysenck proposed that extraversion was caused by variability in cortical arousal: "introverts are characterized by higher levels of activity than extraverts and so are chronically more cortically aroused than extraverts". Similarly, Eysenck proposed that location within the neuroticism dimension was determined by individual differences in the limbic system. While it seems counterintuitive to suppose that introverts are more aroused than extraverts, the putative effect this has on behaviour is such that the introvert seeks lower levels of stimulation. Conversely, the extravert seeks to heighten his or her arousal to a more favourable level (as predicted by the Yerkes-Dodson Law) by increased activity, social engagement and other stimulation-seeking behaviours.
Jeffrey Alan Gray, a former student of Eysenck's, developed a comprehensive alternative theoretical interpretation (called Gray's biopsychological theory of personality) of the biological and psychological data studied by Eysenck - leaning more heavily on animal and learning models. Currently, the most widely used model of personality is the Big Five model. The purported traits in the Big Five model are as follows:
Extraversion and Neuroticism in the Big Five are very similar to Eysenck's traits of the same name. However, what he calls the trait of Psychoticism corresponds to two traits in the Big Five model: Conscientiousness and Agreeableness (Goldberg & Rosalack 1994). Eysenck's personality system did not address Openness to experience. He argued that his approach was a better description of personality.
Eysenck's theory of personality is closely linked with the psychometric scales that he and his co-workers constructed. These included the Maudsley Personality Inventory (MPI), the Eysenck Personality Inventory (EPI), the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (EPQ), as well as the revised version (EPQ-R) and its corresponding short-form (EPQ-R-S). The Eysenck Personality Profiler (EPP) breaks down different facets of each trait considered in the model. There has been some debate about whether these facets should include impulsivity as a facet of extraversion as Eysenck declared in his early work, or of psychoticism, as he declared in his later work.
Eysenck was accused of being a supporter of political causes on the extreme right. Connecting arguments were that Eysenck had articles published in the German newspaper National Zeitung, which called him contributor, and in Nation und Europa, and that he wrote the preface to a book by a far-right French writer named Pierre Krebs, Das unvergängliche Erbe, that was published by Krebs' Thule Seminar. Linguist Siegfried Jäger interpreted the preface to Krebs' book as having, "...railed against the equality of people, presenting it as an untenable ideological doctrine." In the National Zeitung Eysenck reproached Sigmund Freud for alleged trickiness and lack of frankness. Other incidents that fuelled Eysenck's critics like Michael Billig and Steven Rose include the appearance of Eysenck's books on UK National Front's list of recommended readings and an interview with Eysenck published by National Front's Beacon (1977) and later republished in the US neo-fascist Steppingstones; a similar interview had been published a year before by Neue Anthropologie, described by Eysenck's biographer Roderick Buchanan as a "sister publication to Mankind Quarterly, having similar contributors and sometimes sharing the same articles." Eysenck also wrote an introduction for Roger Pearson's Race, Intelligence and Bias in Academe. In this introduction to Pearson's book, Eysenck retorts that his critics are "the scattered troops" of the New Left, who have adopted the "psychology of the fascists". Eysenck book The Inequality of Man, translated in French as L'Inegalite de l'homme, was published by GRECE's publishing house, Éditions Corpernic. In 1974 Eysenck became a member of the academic advisory council of the Mankind Quarterly, joining those associated with the journal in attempting to reinvent it as a more mainstream academic vehicle. Billig asserts that in the same year Eysenck also became a member of the comité de patronage of GRECE's Nouvelle École.
Remarking on Eysenck's alleged right-wing connections, Buchanan writes: "For those looking to thoroughly demonize Eysenck, his links with far right groups revealed his true political sympathies." According to Buchanan, these harsh critics interpreted Eysenck's writings as "overtly racist". Furthermore, Buchanan writes that Eysenck's fiercest critics were convinced that Eysenck was "willfully misrepresenting a dark political agenda". Buchanan footnotes this observation with an emotive, derogatory quote from William Tucker who described Eysenck as "Jensen's dark doppelganger." Buchanan, however, disagrees with this stark interpretation: "Yet the tip-of-the-iceberg metaphor implicit in this accusation appears to be seriously misleading in Eysenck's case. More than most, what you saw was what you got. He spread himself too thin to be harbouring much beneath the surface." Buchanan goes on to argue that Eysenck's research was thinly spread across numerous domains to conclude that "There appeared to be no hidden agenda to Hans Eysenck. He was too self-absorbed, too preoccupied with his own aspirations as a great scientist to harbor specific political aims."
As Buchanan commented:
Harder to brush off was the impression that Eysenck was insensitive, even willfully blind to the way his work played out in a wider political context. He did not want to believe, almost to the point of utter refusal, that his work gave succor to right-wing racialist groups. But there is little doubt that Jensen and Eysenck helped revive the confidence of these groups. [...] It was unexpected vindication from a respectable scientific quarter. The cautionary language of Eysenck's interpretation of the evidence made little difference. To the racialist right, a genetic basis for group differences in intelligence bore out racialist claims of inherent, immutable hierarchy.
Buchanan exemplifies Eysenck's cautionary approach with a number of concrete examples from Eysenck's writings, and concludes that:
If the appropriation of his work by right-wing groups brought him baggage that would be hard to shake off, how then did he construe his relationship with them? Eysenck was a scientist who believed that good research would eventually help temper social wrongs and excesses. The trouble was that the empirical science was clearly taken to be part of the problem as well as the solution. Its very impartiality was itself held up to question. The lack of consensus on the technical issues fed open-ended arguments about truth, social justice, and how we should live. Thus the controversy ran on and on.
Eysenck's defence was that ultimately he did not shy away from publishing or being interviewed in controversial publications, and that he did not necessarily share their editorial viewpoint. Buchanan suggests that this may have been true in general, with an Eysenck interview appearing in Mayfair and several articles by Eysenck being published in Penthouse. In his autobiography, Eysenck answered his critics with: "It is odd, and indeed paradoxical, that my most determined opponents should have been people with whose aims I completely agreed." Regarding the equality of people, Eysenck wrote:
The major argument in modern times is between those who define equality in terms of social status, and those who define it in terms of equality of biological inheritance. Equality of social status has always been a socialist idea, and it is certainly possible to argue about its desirability, or the possibility of achieving it. Equality of biological abilities and traits is a chimera which no thinking person should entertain for one moment.
Eysenck stated his own views in the Introduction to Race, Education and Intelligence:
[T]he reader is consequently entitled to ask in which direction the writer's own political and social beliefs and attitudes go. [...] My recognition of the importance of the racial problem, and my own attitudes of opposition to any kind of racial segregation, and hatred for those who suppress any sector of the community on grounds of race (or sex or religion) were determined in part by the fact that I grew up in Germany, at a time when Hitlerism was becoming the very widely held doctrine which finally prevailed and led to the deaths of several million Jews whose only crime was that they belonged to an imaginary "race" which had been dreamed up by a group of men in whom insanity was mixed in equal parts with craftiness, paranoia with guile, and villainy with sadism.
In 1994, he was one of 52 signatories on "Mainstream Science on Intelligence", an editorial written by Linda Gottfredson and published in the Wall Street Journal, which declared the consensus of the signing scholars on issues related to intelligence research following the publication of the book The Bell Curve. Gottfredson described the drafting of the statements on intelligence and process of gathering signatures on that document in a 1997 editorial in the journal Intelligence. Eysenck includes the entire text of the 1994 editorial (including the lead paragraphs mentioning The Bell Curve and twenty-five propositions about human intelligence) in his 1998 book Intelligence: A New Look, saying, "I did not find any particular discrepancies between my account" and the statements in that editorial.
Eysenck made early contributions to fields such as personality by express and explicit commitment to a very rigorous adherence to scientific methodology, as Eysenck believed that scientific methodology was required for progress in personality psychology. He used, for example, factor analysis, a statistical method, to support his personality model. An example is Inheritance of Neuroticism: An Experimental Study, quoted above. His early work showed that Eysenck was an especially strong critic of psychoanalysis as a form of therapy, preferring behaviour therapy. He was particularly critical of Freud and his methods and wrote a book criticising them entitled Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire.
Eysenck did not shy, in later work, from giving attention to parapsychology and astrology. Indeed, he believed that empirical evidence supported the existence of paranormal abilities. He attracted criticism from skeptics for endorsing the paranormal. Henry Gordon for example stated that Eysenck's viewpoint was "incredibly naive" because many of the parapsychology experiments he cited as evidence contained serious problems and were never replicated. Magician and skeptic James Randi noted that Eysenck had supported fraudulent psychics as genuine and had not mentioned their sleight of hand. According to Randi, he had given "a totally-one sided view of the subject."