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Eysenck's theory

Eysenck (1947) used the technique of factor analysis to analyse personality data drawn from his study of 700 battle-fatigued soldiers diagnosed as neurotic. His analysis led him to propose that personality can be sufficiently described by two dimensions:

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The two dimensions are thought to be normally distributed - the majority of people can be placed in the middle of the dimension and relatively few at either extreme.

He does not use dimensions to suggest that people can be categorised into distinct types, unlike classical type theories, for example Hippocrate's who divided human beings into five different types. Instead, he suggests that there are general differences between, for example, extreme introverts and extreme extraverts, but does not claim that the categories are totally distinct from each other.

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Typical extraverts are sociable, thrive on human company, frequently seek exciting activities and are willing to take risks. They are impulsive, restless, optimistic and not always reliable.

Introverts from coursewrok work info

Introverts are typically more serious and reserved individuals who prefer solitary activities to people. They are more cautious, pessimistic, orderly and restrained.

Neuroticism-stability Visit coursework ed in ed fo ed for ed more writing ed Do ed not ed redistribute

Highly neurotic individuals tend to be more prone to worries and anxiety and are often touchy and irritable. They are more likely to complain of headaches and to suffer from eating and sleeping difficulties.

Highly stable individuals are less likely to make strong emotional responses and tend to be relatively calm, even-tempered and controlled. Visit coursework ed in ed fo ed for ed more writing ed Do ed not ed redistribute

Eysenck's later factor analytical studies led him to identify a third personality dimension, psychoticism.

Psychoticism is unrelated to extraversion-introversion and neuroticism-stability. High scorers on the psychoticism scale tend to be solitary and lack feelings for others. They are also likely to be insensitive, aggressive and hostile.

Psychoticism is not normally distributed in the populations. The distribution is highly skewed with the majority of people falling at the low end of the scale. There is some evidence that criminals and schizophrenics have highly psychoticism scores (Hampson, 1988)

Initially Eysenk's dimensions were assessed using ratings scales based on observer data, be later he and his colleagues devised a series of questionnaires designed to measure extraversion-introversion and neuroticism-stability. The present version is the Eysenck Personality Inventory. It is a self-report questionnaire made up of a number of questions to which respondents are required to answer yes or no. The EPI contains a lie-scale, which assess the individuals' tendency to give socially accepted answers. More recently, the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire has been produced and contains a scale designed to measure psychoticism.

The EPI and EPQ are intended to be used primarily for research purposes rather than to make diagnosis in individual cases.


Eysenck's theory offers no firm support for the biological basis of psychoticism, but he proposes that the differences in extraversion-intraversion and Neuroticism-stability between people are related it the types of nervous system they possess.

Critics have questioned whether such a simple instrument as the EPI with its inflexible yes/no questions is adequate to measure the complexities of human personality (Heim, 1970)

Shackleton and Fletcher (1984) pay tribute to Eysenck's theory and point out that it has generated a vast amount of research and has provided an invaluable model for personality investigations.

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