Hans Eysenck's trait theory of personality
Essentially physiology and genetics where mainly relevant in, Eysenck's theory Even though he was a behaviourist he considered that learned habits where of great importance, he also believed personality differences grew out of our genetic inheritance. Working within these areas of personality Eysenck discovered that there were two disciplines within psychology regarding personality. The first consisted of theorist who studied personality, interested in just developing theories with very little empirical evidence. The other used experimental evidence but had little or no interest in individual differences. This essay will critically evaluate Hans Eysenck's trait theory of personality.
Eysenck (1947) emphasized the importance of these two schools of personality studies; to be incorporated into one. However Eysenck's theories summarized in being able to identify and measure the dimensions of personality by using factor analysis in which he devised a means to measure and test them.
Eysenck was for the most part a research psychologist, although he began investigating historical approaches to personality, these included the work of Hippocrates and Galen; his rationale for this was to discover the underlying construction of personality. He found evidence that, suggested there could be differences in personality types. He used this evidence in his definition of personality. This is what he used to build a personality inventory related to Galen's Four Temperaments.
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However Eysenck's research provided a valuable additional compared to the four temperaments of Galen; by exploring and analysing the personality by means of dimensions, and made up from intelligence, physique and nervous system. Eysenck claim was meet with scepticism from other theorist when he claimed that there was a large biological determinant to personality. However his biological theories have been accepted from biological research carried out.
Eysenck surveyed thousands of people, by means of many various adjectives (traits) representing behaviour as well as types. Eysenck (1970) created a scalable model of his personality test. He gathered massive amounts of research which comprised of using questionnaires, with these he collected his data; this helped him create his trait theory of personality, however unlike Cattell who gathered his data first, then produced his theory last, known as 'bottom up'. Eysenck began with the theory first and then created his data from his theory; this is why Eysenck became known as a 'top down theorist.' He used factor analysis to obtain large quantities of data, for example give a long list of adjectives to a substantial number of people. They can use these questionnaires to rate themselves on. Furthermore people who have high score in anxiety should in theory answer high on all anxiety related questions as cited in Maltby (2005). Using this method means only needing to ask fewer questions instead of a hundreds.
Using the personality questionnaire participants were asked forty six questions in which their answers represent a true representation of their personality. Eysenck only suggested two traits then added his psychoticism trait later after studding mentally ill patients this made up his three traits of personality that are known today extroversion, introversion and psychoticism these he called super traits.
Costa & McCrae's (1976) developed this further with their big five model, Openness, extroversion, neuroticism conscientiousness & agreeableness. Eysenck's argued against agreeableness and conscientiousness saying they belonged at a lower level in the hierarchy than psychoticism, extraversion, and neuroticism. Just as extraversion is made up of; impulsivity and sociability, so also psychoticism is made up of the factors agreeableness and conscientiousness. At the highest level in the hierarchy are the super factors P, E, and N. These super factors are not only psychometrically sound, but also have a physiological basis that has never been claimed for the Big Five.
Costa and McCrae's (1976) as cited in Maltby (2005) related two traits in their big five model, however Costa et al used cluster analysis instead of factor analysis which showed two main clusters which agreed with Eysenck's extroversion and neuroticism, they called these facets similar to Eysenck's dimensions. However due to the facets being narrow they guaranteed to form a scale Costa et al created a new factor set to deal with this but now that lexical sampling was disappearing. Facet and factor were being measured; they added two new factors agreeable, conscientiousness to their original three which they took from Goldberg. Costa and Crae used questionnaires which were known as the five factor model of personality (NEO-PI (R)).
Traits such as extroversion, neuroticism, and psychoticism Eysenck discovered that people who scored high in extroversion also showed dimensions in their personality of outgoing, sociable, how they preferred company of others loud and outgoing. Whereas neurotics showed dimensions of shyness becoming unsociable prefer their own company quiet and shy. Nonetheless when Eysenck discovered his third trait; psychoticism this showed people to be cruel, cold, impulsive, manipulative, etc. These types of personality may go on to develop mental illnesses such as depression as well as schizophrenia unlike people who score low (warm, socialised).
Eysenck began by observing a person's behavior this he calls specific response, Eysenck used this to develop a hierarchical typology. For example by observing someone talking with their friends and carefully observe their specific responses, the more that this person spends talking with their friends they give away some of the habitual responses Eysenck thought that habitual responses are ways that individuals behave in certain situations. Furthermore he went on to suggest that if you carried on observing them and they may interact with others this would indicate that the individual likes to socialise, or they possess a trait of sociability in their personality.
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Eysenck argued that these traits such as sociability, liveliness, activity, assertiveness and sensation seeking are highly correlated. Simply put an individual's score on each of these traits are more likely to be related, these then start to form a super trait of personality. Each super trait corresponds to a continuum on which individuals can be placed in order of the characteristic they possess.
Eysenck (1967) suggested that extroverts turn out to be psychically tiered more easily; they get bored easily and persevere less than their counter parts introverts who. According to Kline (1983) added that on long tedious jobs extroverts may start better than introverts but not perform well in the middle and become strong towards the end of the task. Whilst introvert work more steadily throughout. Eysenck (1967) supported these theories as well as Harkins and Green (1975) they found that introverts do better than extroverts in vigilance tasks involving prolonged periods of concentration.
Eysenck (1967, 1990) as cited in Maltby (2005) became one of the first theorists to link biology to personality. He suggested that within the brain there are two set of excitatory and inhibitory neural mechanisms. The excitatory relates to keep the individual alert, active and aroused. While the inhibitory mechanisms helps relates to inactivity and lethargy. He went on to say the individuals try to maintain an sense of balance between theses excite and inhibit mechanisms and this has been identified as ascending reticular activating system (ARAS). This is located in the brain stem; it connects to the thalamus, hypothalamus, and cortex. The ARAS handles the information or stimulation the brain receives. This is known as arousal according to Eysenck's theory this can be attributed to two circuits reticulo-cortical this circuit controls the cortical arousal generated by incoming stimuli, as the reticulo-limbic circuit is responsible in how it manages arousal to emotional stimuli. Eysenck related arousal to his personality dimensions, extroversion and neuroticism. Neuroticism incorporates personality traits for instance anxiety, worry and moody traits, whereas extroversion has traits of sociability, sensations seeking carefree and optimistic. Gray's (1970,1981) theory started as a variation to Eysenck theory but is now well thought-out and alternative theory. Grey's theory places emphasis that biological mechanisms relate to things they desire. Grays findings were based on animal research to study human personality. Gray put forward that personality is based on communication between the Behavioral Approach System (BAS) and the Behavioral Inhibition System (BIS). The BAS has a tendency to seek rewards whereas the BIS tends to avoid punishment.
Gray correlated his theory to two personality variables impulsivity and anxiety, people with high behavioral approach show traits of impulsive, extremely motivated and seeking rewards. On the other hand people who show low traits in behavioral approaches depict traits not being impulsive furthermore people who have high traits in behavioral inhibitions, can be anxious and make more mistakes.
In conclusion when we look at Eysenck's he shows us that his goals where to identify the proportions of personality, and by using factor analysis he was able to measure and test and defined personality by how a persons is made up of intelligence, physique. He developed a hierarchical view of personality with specific behavioral responses habitual of how we react to situations at the bottom and come together to make up personality traits.
- Maltby,J. Day,L.& Macaskill, A. (2007). Personality, Individual Difference & Intelligence. Essex: Pearson Education LTD.
- Boeree, C.G . (2006). Hans Eysenck. Available: http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/eysenck.html. Last accessed 26.02.2010.
- Richards,D. (2010). eysenck's personality inventory and the four temperaments. Available: http://www.odportal.com/personality/eysenck.htm. Last accessed 27.Feb.2010.
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