My iBooks Collection

My iBooks Collection
My iBooks Collection: Some of my favorite books!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

REVIEW: Hans Eysenck


The ancient Greeks, to take the obvious example, had given it considerable thought, and came up with two dimensions of temperament, leading to four “types,” based on what kind of fluids (called humors) they had too much or too little of. This theory became popular during the middle ages.

The sanguine type is cheerful and optimistic, pleasant to be with, comfortable with his or her work. According to the Greeks, the sanguine type has a particularly abundant supply of blood (hence the name sanguine, from sanguis, Latin for blood) and so also is characterized by a healthful look, including rosy cheeks.

The choleric type is characterized by a quick, hot temper, often an aggressive nature. The name refers to bile (a chemical that is excreted by the gall bladder to aid in digestion). Physical features of the choleric person include a yellowish complexion and tense muscles.

Next, we have the phlegmatic temperament. These people are characterized by their slowness, laziness, and dullness. The name obviously comes from the word phlegm, which is the mucus we bring up from our lungs when we have a cold or lung infection. Physically, these people are thought to be kind of cold, and shaking hands with one is like shaking hands with a fish.

Finally, there’s the melancholy temperament. These people tend to be sad, even depressed, and take a pessimistic view of the world. The name has, of course, been adopted as a synonym for sadness, but comes from the Greek words for black bile. Now, since there is no such thing, we don’t quite know what the ancient Greeks were referring to. But the melancholy person was thought to have too much of it!

These four types are actually the corners of two dissecting lines: temperature and humidity. Sanguine people are warm and wet. Choleric people are warm and dry. Phlegmatic people are cool and wet. Melancholy people are cool and dry. There were even theories suggesting that different climates were related to different types, so that Italians (warm and moist) were sanguine, Arabs (warm and dry) were choleric, Russians (cool and dry) were melancholy, and Englishmen (cool and wet) were phlegmatic!

Eysenck’s theory is  based primarily on physiology and genetics.  Although he is a behaviorist who considers learned habits of great importance, he considers personality differences as growing out of our genetic inheritance.  He is, therefore, primarily interested in what is usually called temperament.
Eysenck is also primarily a research psychologist.  His methods involve a statistical technique called factor analysis.  This technique extracts a number of “dimensions” from large masses of data.  For example, if you give long lists of adjectives to a large number of people for them to rate themselves on, you have prime raw material for factor analysis.

Neuroticism: The most obvious place to look was at the sympathetic nervous system.  This is a part of the autonomic nervous system that functions separately from the central nervous system and controls much of our emotional responsiveness to emergency situations. 

Perhaps the most “archetypal” neurotic symptom is the panic attack. Eysenck explained panic attacks as something like the positive feedback you get when you place a microphone too close to a speaker: 


Excitation is the brain waking itself up, getting into an alert, learning state. Inhibition is the brain calming itself down, either in the usual sense of relaxing and going to sleep, or in the sense of protecting itself in the case of overwhelming stimulation.


Like neuroticism, high psychoticism does not mean you are psychotic or doomed to become so -- only that you exhibit some qualities commonly found among psychotics, and that you may be more susceptible, given certain environments, to becoming psychotic.
As you might imagine, the kinds of qualities found in high psychoticistic people include a certain recklessness, a disregard for common sense or conventions, and a degree of inappropriate emotional expression. It is the dimension that separates those people who end up institutions from the rest of humanity!

No comments:

Post a Comment