Lecture 8 -Psychology of Personality
Hans J. Eysenck (1916 – 1997)
Hans Eysenck was born in Germany on March 4, 1916. Hans Eysenck grew up in Berlin as the child of a
filmstar mother who re-married (to a Jewish film producer) when Hans was nine. Because of his mother's
work and new liaison, requiring her emigration to France, Eysenck was brought up in Berlin by his
maternal grandmother (a one-time opera singer who, having been badly crippled would herself die in a
Nazi concentration camp).
His parents were actors who divorced when he was only two, and so Hans was raised by his
grandmother. He left there when he was 18 years old, when the Nazis came to power. As an active
Jewish sympathizer, his life was in danger.
In England, he continued his education, and received his Ph.D. in Psychology from the
University of London in 1940. During World War II, he served as a psychologist at an
emergency hospital, where he did research on the reliability of psychiatric diagnoses. The
results led him to a life-long antagonism to main-stream clinical psychology.
After the war, he taught at the University of London, as well as serving as the director of
the psychology department of the Institute of Psychiatry, associated with Bethlehem Royal Hospital. He
has written 75 books and some 700 articles, making him one of the most prolific writers in psychology.
Eysenck retired in 1983 and continued to write until his death on September 4, 1997.
Hans Eysenck is probably best known as a controversialist. He was more a theorist than a researcher, and
although much research has supported his theories since, there are some that have been scrutinized and
His most influential paper in terms of the treatment of mental illness challenged the effectiveness of
psychotherapy. He argued that the treatment approaches of the time, especially psychoanalysis, were no
better than no treatment at all. While this outraged some and concerned others, it also challenged many to
test his theories. Since its publication, a plethora of research has been completed that shows
psychotherapy to be an effective approach to the treatment of mental illness.
Eysenck was somewhat of a biological theorist and he also inspired research on the biological
components of personality. He stated that intelligence was largely inherited and introduced the world to
his concepts of extroversion and neuroticism, the two basic personality dimensions, according to his
theory. He believed that all personality traits could be summarized by these two dimensions, which he
His theories have inspired many and although controversial in many aspects of his career, he remains a
celebrity, much like his parents, for those who study personality theory.
I always felt that a scientist owes the world only one thing,