Hans Eysenck's biography and work is one of the most influential scientists in psychology history. With his work, he laid the bases for the scientific study not only on personality, but also on human behavior. Hans Eysenck, known for his defiant and reluctant views against the already grounded norms, is the most cited psychologist of all time. He proposed once that our behavior is rarely affected by our environment, rather genetics determines it. He introduced introverted and extroverted behavior along with neurotic bias to the world of psychology. This paper will examine Hans Eysenck's life and the history of his theory on criminal personality. Hans Eysenck Bibliography
Hans Eysenck was born March 4, 1916 in Berlin, Germany. His mother Helga Molander, born as Ruth Werner , was a starlet at the time of Hans' birth, she later became a German silent film star, and married Anton Eduard Eysenck, who was an actor, singer, and comedian. His parents divorced when he was 4 years of age, and it was then when he went to live with his maternal grandmother (Feist,1997). Hans Eysenck life as a child was quite interesting.
Eysenck grew up with very little parental discipline, as his parents really did not care what he did or did not do, and his grandmother was rather permissive. Boeree (2006) states, “Eysenck told his grandmother he was going to buy a pack of cigarettes expecting to be apprehended, and was startled when his grandma granted this behavior”. Eysenck believed situations like these really had nothing to do with one's personality development, as he believed genetics played a much stronger role in behavior than what one experienced as a child. His ill feelings toward Hitler and the Nazi Party led him to move to England when he was 18.
Eysenck is quoted as saying "My hatred of Hitler and the Nazis, and all they stood for, was so overwhelming that no argument could counter it”(Boeree, 2006). 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("Allpsych online," 2011). During World War II, Eysenck worked as a research 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 ("Allpsych online," 2011) . While Hans Eysenck was certainly a controversial figure, his wide-ranging research had a major influence on psychology.
His work in personality and intelligence, also played a major role in establishing approaches to clinical training and psychotherapy, which were firmly rooted in empirical research and science. Hans Eysenck is somewhat difficult to identify or classify. He supports a model of personality that is characterized by types and traits because he believes that the most fundamental personality characteristics are inherited. His belief that both heredity and environment determine behavior supports his learning theory and the behavior therapies (Boeree, 2006). Eysenck cannot be neatly categorized as a theorist.
He has involved himself with such topics as the relation between smoking and health, criminality, the heritability of intelligence, educational theory and practice, sexual behavior, the effects of psychotherapy, and even astrology; in addition to personality theory and behavior therapy (Boeree, 2006). Hans Eysenck was considered the leader of the “London School” of psychology. His landmark works The Biological Basis of Personality (1967) and Personality Structure and Measurement (1968) established Eysenck as a towering figure in British psychology. In 1993, he was honored with the U. S. Presidential Citation for Scientific Contribution; in 1994, he received the William James Fellow Award (American Psychological Society); and in 1996, was bestowed with the Centennial Award for distinguished contributions to clinical Psychology (American Psychological Society).
His lifetime goal was to make twentieth century human psychology a true science. At the time of his death at age 81, he had published about 80 books and over 1600 articles (Boeree, 2006). Classifying Behavior Eysenck viewed people by their significant and measurable qualities.
He also believed that measurement is fundamental to all scientific development. In psychology, researchers are not yet sure what they should be measuring. Eysenck's classification of behavior, is an important first step. Measuring behavior and factor analysis is the best means of classifying behavior (Bartol & Bartol, 2005). From the beginning of his career, Eysenck was certain that most personality theories are too complicated and not formulated. He has attempted to derive conceptions of behavior that are simple.
His system is characterized by a very small number of major dimensions and definitions. At the same time, his conceptions reflect his study of many different figures in intellectual history, Hippocrates, Galen, Kretschmer, Jung, Pavlov, Hull, Spearman, and Thurstone to name a few (Boeree, 2006). Personality and Crime Eysenck is most well known for his theory of personality and crime. His theory proposed that “criminal behavior is the result of an interaction between certain environmental conditions and features of the nervous system” (Bartol & Bartol,2005).
Eysenck’s emphasis is placed on the genetic predisposition toward antisocial and criminal behavior. Followers of his theory believe that each individual offender has a unique neurophysiology that when mixed with a certain environment, can not help but result to criminality (Bartol & Bartol, 2005). It is important to note that Eysenck was not suggesting that criminals are born, rather that the combination of environment, neurobiology, and personality factors give rise to different types of crimes and those different personalities were more susceptible to specific criminal activity.
Eysenck derived his types, or dimensions, according to people he began studying during World War II (Bartol & Bartol, 2005). He studied soldiers who were treated at the hospital where he served as staff psychologist. According to Bartol and Bartol (2005), in 1947 Eysenck published his first major work, where he studied some 700 military psychiatric cases, and it led to the isolation of the two variables of introversion-extraversion and normality-neuroticism.
These two factors are the analysis of a large number of variables, many of which were traits (e. g. , anxiety, dependency) but some of which were factual data (e. g. , age, martial status). Much of Eysenck's initial database consisted of ratings by psychiatrists and life-history information. Subsequent explorations, however, employed other kinds of data sources such as questionnaires and performance tasks (Boeree, 2006). Personality The term ‘personality’ is generally used to refer to relatively stable characteristics of a person that make their behavior consistent across situations (but many other definitions are possible, depending on the approach being taken (Putwain & Sammons, 2002).
Hans Eysenck in 1964 put forward a theory of criminal behavior based on a very influential theory of personality he had earlier devised and which he continued to develop throughout his career. Although this theory is usually referred to as a Personality Theory of Offending, it is important to appreciate that Eysenck’s theory conceives of criminal behavior as the outcome of interactions between processes occurring at several different levels of explanation (Putwain & Sammons, 2002).
To further understand this theory, Eysenck explains it as follows: It is not itself, or criminality that is innate; it is certain peculiarities of the central and autonomic nervous system that react with the environment, with upbringing, and many other environmental factors to increase the probability that a given person would act in a certain antisocial manner (Eysenck & Gudjonsson, 1989). Extraversion, neuroticism and psychoticism Eysenck originally argued that the great variation between people’s personalities could be reduced to just two dimensions which related to the underlying functioning of the individual’s nervous system.
A person’s level of extraversion (E), and neuroticism (N) can be measured using simple pencil and-paper questionnaires such as the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (EPQ). People with High extraversion scores are sociable, active, lively and sensation seeking. Extraversion is determined by the overall level of arousal in the person’s central nervous system (CNS) and autonomic nervous system (ANS). High E-scorers have a low level of arousal and therefore need more stimulation from their environment. People with high N-scores are anxious, depressed and react very strongly to aversive stimuli.
Neuroticism is determined by the overall level of ability in the person’s CNS. Where N-Scores are low, the person has a stable, relatively unreactive nervous system whereas a high N scores result in a high degree of instability. Eysenck later added a third dimension of personality, psychoticism (P). People who score high on the P-scale are aggressive, antisocial, cold and egocentric. Eysenck was less clear on how P-scores related to the functioning of the nervous system. According to Eysenck, E, N and P scores are determined largely by genetics. Each trait is normally distributed in the population.
That is, most people have moderate E, N and P scores. Extreme scores are rare and the more extreme a score, the rarer it is (Putwain & Sammons, 2002). E, N, P and criminal behavior In Eysenck’s theory, personality is linked to criminal behavior via the socialization processes. Eysenck viewed criminal behavior as developmentally immature in that it is selfish and concerned with immediate gratification. The process of socialization is one in which children are taught to become more able to delay gratification and become more socially oriented (Putwain & Sammons, 2002). This is accomplished primarily through conditioning.
When children act in immature ways, they are punished. Consequently, psychologists come to associate anxiety with antisocial behavior. Where this process is successful, even thinking about behaving antisocially produces anxiety, so the person avoids doing it. Eysenck believed that people with high E and N scores had nervous systems that made them difficult to condition. As a result, they would not easily learn to respond to antisocial impulses with anxiety. Consequently, they would be more likely to act antisocially in situations where the opportunity presented itself (Putwain & Sammons, 2002).
Evidence for Eysenck’s theory Eysenck’s theory covers a great deal of ground, and there are aspects of it that are not easy to test. However, it does make the basic prediction that compared with non-offenders, offender populations should have higher E, N and P scores. When looking at the table below, Eysenck shows three main factors for temperament are extraversion, neuroticism, and psychoticism. A large majority of crime research today focuses precisely on the first two traits. Eysenck did not actually identify psychoticism until later when he found a need to identify behavior that could not be explained as extraversion and neuroticism.