Hans Eysenck (1916 -1997)

H J Eysenck
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Hans Eysenck was born in Germany but moved to England after turning 18 and spent most of his working life there. His research interests were wide-ranging but he is perhaps best known for his theories of personality and intelligence.

Eysenck's theory of personality focused on temperaments, which he believed were largely controlled by genetic influences. He utilized a statistical technique known as factor analysis to identify what he believed were the two primary dimensions of personality, extraversion and neuroticism.

He later added a third dimension known as psychoticism.

Eysenck was a hugely influential figure in psychology. At the time of his death in 1997, he was the most-frequenly cited psychologist in scientific journals. Despite this influence, he was also a controversial figure. His suggestion that racial differences in intelligence were due to genetics rather than environment generated a tremendous amount of conflict.

Learn more about his life and influence on psychology in this brief biography.

Hans Eysenck Is Best Known For:

  • His work in personality and intelligence
  • One of the most frequently cited psychologists

Birth and Death:

  • Eysenck was born on March 4, 1916
  • He died on September 4, 1997

Early Life:

Hans Eysenck was born in Germany to parents who were both noted film and stage actors. After his parents' divorce when he was only two, he was raised almost entirely by his grandmother. His antipathy toward Hitler and the Nazi's led him to move to England when he was 18.

Because of his German citizenship, he found it difficult to find work in England. He eventually went on to earn a Ph.D in Psychology from the University College London in 1940 under the supervision of psychologist Cyril Burt, perhaps best-known for his research on the heritability of intelligence.

Career:

During the Second World War, Eysenck worked as a researcher psychologist at Mill Hill Emergency Hospital.

He later founded the psychology departed at the University of London Institute of Psychiatry, where he continued to work until 1983. He served as Professor Emeritus at the school until his death in 1997. He was also an extremely prolific writer. Over the course of his career, he published more than 75 books and over 1600 journal articles. Prior to his death, he was the most frequently cited living psychologist.

Contributions to Psychology:

In addition to being one of the most famous psychologists, he was also one of the most controversial. One of the earliest controversies revolved around a paper he wrote in 1952 on the effects of psychotherapy. In the paper, Eysenck reported that two-thirds of therapy patients improved significantly or recovered within two year, regardless of whether or not they received psychotherapy.

He was also a vocal critic of psychoanalysis, dismissing it as unscientific. You can hear Eysenck describe his views on Freudian theory and psychoanalytic treatment in this video: Hans J. Eysenck, Ph.D. Lifetalk with Roberta Russell on Psychoanalysis

The greatest controversy surrounding Eysenck was his view of the heritability of intelligence, more specifically his view that racial differences in intelligence could be partially attributed to genetic factors. After one of his student's was criticized for publishing a paper suggesting that genetics were responsible for racial differences in intelligence, Eysenck defended him and later published The IQ Argument: Race, Intelligence, and Education, which incited considerable controversy and criticism. His 1990 autobiography took a more moderate view that ascribed greater importance to the role of environment and experience in shaping intelligence.

While Hans Eysenck was certainly a controversial figure, his wide-ranging research had a major influence on psychology. In addition his work in personality and intelligence, he also played a major role in establishing approaches to clinical training and psychotherapy that were firmly rooted in empirical research and science.

Selected Publications by Hans Eysenck:

Eysenck, H. J. (1947). The structure of human personality. New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Eysenck, H. J. (1957). The effects of psychotherapy: An evaluation. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 16, 319-324.

Eysenck, H. J.(1979). The structure and measurement of intelligence. New York: Springer-Verlag.

Eysenck. H. J. (1985). Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire. Washington, D.C.: Scott- Townsend Publishers.

References

Eysenck, H. J. (1971). The IQ argument: Race, intelligence, and education. New York: Library Press.

Eysenck, H. J. (1990). Rebel with a cause: The autobiography of Hans Eysenck. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

Haggbloom, S.J. (2002). The 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th century. Review of General Psychology, 6, 139–152.

Mcloughlin, C. S. (2000). Eysenck, Hans Jurgen. In A. K. Kazdin (Ed.), Encyclopedia of psychology (Vol.3). (pp. 310-311). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Schatzman, M. (1997). Obituary: Professor Hans Eysenck. The Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/obituary-professor-hans-eysenck-1238119.html

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