profile: Hans Eysenck - Ways We Differ

30-Second Psychology: The 50 Most Thought-provoking Psychology Theories, Each Explained in Half a Minute - Christian Jarrett 2011

profile: Hans Eysenck
Ways We Differ

Your IQ is inherited and depends on the racial group to which you belong. The position of the stars in the sky when you are born affects your personality for the rest of your life. Smoking doesn’t cause lung cancer. These are a few of the more controversial beliefs championed by German-born psychologist Hans Eysenck during a lifetime of challenging the scientific establishment.

On some points, the rest of the world did eventually catch up with him. His view that Freud was unscientific and psychoanalysis does not help treat neurosis, for instance, caused outrage when he first mooted it in the 1950s, but has since gained wider support. He was also one of the first to argue that sex and violence on television have a detrimental effect on viewers, an idea derided in the 1970s but which many analysts now agree with. And what of his view that politics divide not simply into left and right, or radicalism and conservatism, but into ’tough-mindedness’ and ’tender-mindedness’? According to this theory, fascists, communists, men and the working class all tend toward ’tough-mindedness’, while liberals, women and the middle class are more ’tender-minded’. Not only that, but your position on the tough-tender scale is 50 per cent determined by your genes.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Eysenck’s extreme views provoked extreme reactions. He was described as ’the psychologist people most love to hate’ and was physically attacked while giving a speech. Eysenck, however, should also be remembered for his three-factor model of personality, which has largely stood the test of time, and acted as a forerunner to the now widely accepted big five model. His high public profile was accompanied by a prodigious output, including some eighty books, and, by the time he died, he was the most-quoted psychologist of his generation. ’Tact and diplomacy are fine in international relations, in politics, perhaps even in business,’ he wrote, ’in science only one thing matters, and that is the facts.’


Born, Berlin


Moves to Dijon, France, then London


Marries Margaret Davies


Psychologist at Mill Hill Hospital


Psychologist at Maudsley Hospital


Marries Sybil Rostal


Professor of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry


Publishes Race, Intelligence and Education




Publishes autobiography Rebel With a Cause


Dies, London