Psychologist Hans Eysenck Biography

Hans Juergen Eysenck — Begins career in behavior research, Invites controversy on several fronts

Psychologist Hans Eysenck Biography

German-born British psychologist whose unorthodox views generated controversy.

Hans Eysenck's obituary in the New York Times called him «one of the most distinguished, prolific, and maddeningly perverse psychologists of his generation.» This accurately sums up a long career that Eysenck claimed he entered almost by accident.

As a personality and behavior theorist, he popularized the terms «introvert» and «extrovert,» and he created a personality inventory test his many years of research in London. He published more than 80 books and 1,600 journal articles.

Yet he also generated enormous controversy during his career. He argued that psychotherapy had little if any value; that smoking did not cause lung cancer, and, most contentious, that there was a correlation between race and I.Q. scores.

While he made many enemies in many circles, he also had many supporters who claimed that his ideas had been taken context.

Born in Berlin on March 4, 1916, Hans Juergen Eysenck was the son of Eduard Anton and Ruth Werner Eysenck. Both his parents were actors; his mother appeared in silent films. They divorced in 1918 and young Hans was primarily raised by his grandmother.

He attended school primarily in Berlin and had planned to go to the University there when he graduated high school in 1934. When he found out that acceptance into the University of Berlin was contingent on joining the Nazi party, he found this unacceptable and left Germany.

He studied literature and history at the University of Dijon in France and later at University College of Exeter in England. He moved to London and had planned to study physics there, but he did not qualify for admission into the program. When he tried to register as a science student, he was told that he could only take psychology.

Initially disenchanted with the subject, he soon warmed to it, particularly statistical analysis and research. He received his bachelor's degree in 1938 and his Ph.D. in 1940.

Begins career in behavior research

Turned down for British military service because he was still a German citizen, Eysenck was later allowed to join Britain's civil defense program. In 1942, he took a position as a research psychologist at the Mill Hill Emergency Hospital outside London.

Many of the staff were from London's Maudsley Hospital, a psychiatric training institution that had been closed because of the war. When it re-opened in 1946, Eysenck took a position there as a senior research psychologist. He became director of the psychology department there a year later.

In 1950 the University of London established its Institute of Psychiatry at Maudsley, and Eysenck established its psychology department. He also became a professor of psychology at the University.

Personality was what most intrigued Eysenck, and he conducted expensive research on different personality types. He was influenced in part by scientists such as Ivan Pavlov, famous for his experiments with conditioned reflexes.

But he also placed considerable importance on statistical research. Genetics, too, played a role in Eysenck's research. He came up with a series of personality «dimensions» to explain different behaviors.

These include neurosis, introversion-extroversion, and psychosis. He used his theories and his statistical research to explain in part what made shy people shy, for example, or what made people engage in criminal behavior.

He also developed the Maudsley Personality Inventory (used widely in Britain), a test that determined a person's basic personality type.

Invites controversy on several fronts

Along with the research results that were lauded by both his colleagues and the public at large, however, he made numerous conclusions that for many called into question his abilities as a serious scientist.

As early as the 1950s, Eysenck was claiming that psychotherapy had no beneficial effect on people. He believed that behavior therapy yielded much better results because it dealt with the present rather than some deep dark past.

Although in later years he did grow somewhat more accepting of certain types of psychotherapy, he remained for the most part skeptical of its true worth.

His theories on smoking and lung cancer were hardly popular (except, perhaps, with tobacco companies). He believed that certain personality types were susceptible both to taking up smoking and to the diseases it could cause.

By far his most controversial views were those on race and intelligence. The American psychologist Arthur Jensen claimed in the late 1960s that race was a factor in I.Q. scores, with blacks scoring about 15 points lower on the tests. Eysenck came to Jensen's aid and said that the difference in scores was genetic as well as physiological factors.

Not surprisingly, the negative publicity generated by a statement this was so strong that when he was visiting the University of California at Berkeley in 1971, he had to be escorted about the campus by armed bodyguards. Eysenck claimed that his conclusions were purely scientific and were not racism.

His detractors were invariably surprised when they found out he had voluntarily left Nazi Germany.

Over the next several years Eysenck continued to conduct research, as well as keeping up his usual output of books and articles. Even after he retired from the University in 1988 he continued to write.

His second wife, Sybil Rostal Eysenck, had been a psychology student. Because of this connection, the Eysencks often collaborated on different projects. The Eysencks, who married in 1950, had four children.

(Eysenck's first to Margaret Davies produced a son.)

In 1996, Eysenck was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He continued to work as much as he could, up until almost the time of his death. Death came on September 4, 1997, at a hospice in London.


Hans Eysenck: summary biography of this famous psychologist

Psychologist Hans Eysenck Biography

Hans Eysenck was a German-English psychologist well known for his theories about personality . He has gone down in history as one of the most influential figures in modern psychology and his theories are still being discussed and used by psychologists and other experts in human behavior.

In this article we review the life of this psychologist from a very short biography of Hans Eysenck , detailing some characteristics of his life and work.

  • Related article: «History of Psychology: authors and main theories»

Hans Eysenck: biography of one of the fathers of modern psychology

Hans Eysenck was born on March 4, 1916 in Berlin, Germany. He grew up and lived in that city until the year 1934, when he was forced to take refuge first in France and then in the United Kingdom by the Nazi regime.

His parents were actors, that when they separated and faced the conditions of the country, they moved to France. Eysenck grew up with his maternal grandmother, Frau Werner, with whom he had a free education and full of intellectual and cultural stimuli. He quickly stood out as a good student and even a good athlete.

Finally he had to emigrate and was in London where he began to study psychology (at the University of London). In the same city, he worked as a clinical psychologist and even worked in the Institute of Psychiatry.

Hans Eysenck is credited with having built one of the strongest personality paradigms in the history of psychology. There are those who even consider him «the father of psychology».

  • You may be interested: «Eysenck's Theory of Personality: the PEN model

His fields of work and research

While a student, Eysenck participated in various meetings and reviews of intelligence theories. Along with some American intellectuals, He also developed therapy options other than psychodynamics, which was the most popular at the time.

He also realized that psychology as a science was in the background with respect to psychiatry. Eysenck remained interested in claiming the status of the first and seeking cooperation between them.

In the same way remained critical to the diagnoses made by psychiatry . I saw many contradictions and difficulties to defend them theoretically. From these experiences he developed his own model of personality, recovering many of the approaches of philosophy and more classical psychology.

Beyond measuring the personality, insisted on the value of knowing it, and interested in solving the problem of the taxonomy used in psychiatry, Eysenck argued that the personality does not occur in the continuous normality-neurosis-psychosis, but that the dimensions that best represent this are neuroticism and psychoticism .

From this he made studies with many of the people with whom he worked as a clinical psychologist, people who had some psychiatric diagnosis and people who did not. After analyzing the data, he proposed two key factors for personality: neuroticism and extraversion.

Years later and from new studies, add a new new dimension: psychoticism. Finally I present a hierarchically organized model in four levels ranging from personality types and their features, to the specific answers that correspond to each one. This work gave shape to what is known as the personality PEN model .

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From personality to intelligence

Through his studies, Eysenck developed the famous model of psychotic personality-extraversion-neuroticism, with biological factors for each one, that is, highlighting the role of genetic inheritance in the development of personality. For example, He argued that psychological differences and their hereditary determinants can be tested empirically. .

This was what finally led him to develop research on issues related to personality, but that go a little further, such as intelligence, creativity, the relationship between genes and culture, crime, sexuality, the relationship between personality and diseases or addictions, among others.

Many of his studies on Intellectual Quotient and its relationship with cultural systems received many criticisms. For example, his theories have been used both to justify racial dynamics and to refute them.

His latest studies focused on the analysis of creativity and its relationship with biological factors. Y his personality model has been adapted to numerous psychometric tests to evaluate both intelligence and personality traits. Currently they are used in the clinical, educational, vocational and work areas.

Outstanding works

Among his most important works are: Personality Structure and Measurement of 1969 (Structures of personality and measurement), The Structure of Human Personality of 1970 (The structure of the human personality), Genes, Culture and Personality of 1989 (Genes, Culture and Personality).

On the specific relationship between intelligence, personality and biology, some of his most important works are The Biological Basis of Personality of 1967 (The biological basis of personality) and Personality, Genetics and Behavior of 1982 (Personality, genetics and behavior).

Bibliographic references:

  • Schmidt, V., Oliván, M.E., L, F. et al (2008). Hans Jürgen Eysenck. Life and Work of one of the most influential scientists in the history of psychology. Advances in Latin American Psychology / Bogotá (Colombia), 26 (2): 304-317.

Measuring Personality: Crash Course Psychology #22 (November 2021)


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