Eysenck's Theory: A Hierarchical Model Of Personality

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1. Context From Ancient Greece to modern times, individual differences in behaviour have been commonly understood as linked to temperament or personality. Some psychologists, starting with Freud, believed that such differences could be the result of hidden unconscious factors (psychodynamic approach). The promoters of behaviourism, such as Skinner, believed that personality aspects may be the result of conditioning by external factors. Some (for instance, Kelly) focused on cognition, others (such as Mischel) on social factors, while others (Maslow, Rogers) put an emphasis on individuals’ goals in the realization of their potential (humanistic approach). Finally, some - including Eysenck - believed that personality consisted of relatively stable…show more content…
According to him, the behavioural responses of the individuals to their environment (specific responses) allow identifying the way in which individuals typically behave in a situation (habitual responses); by grouping habitual responses, personality traits can be identified. Using factor analysis, Eysenck found certain personality traits that he believed were fundamental (super traits) and comprise all the other traits. Initially, Eysenck found two super-traits: extraversion and neuroticism. Later, he found a third super-trait, which he called psychoticism. These super-traits are not categorical, but measured on a continuum: at the opposite end of extraversion there is introversion, at the opposite of neuroticism there is emotional stability, while socialization is the opposite of psychoticism. Eysenck was convinced that the super-traits had a biological basis – namely, that they were mainly the result of genetic factors. He argued that extraversion was linked to cortical arousal, neuroticism to the functioning of the limbic system, and psychoticism to the level of certain…show more content…
This seems to reflect a deterministic view, which in addition could be seen as limitative because the possible influence of other factors is not sufficiently taken into account. It could be argued, for instance, that the appearance of consistent behaviour may be caused, at least partially, by the similarity of situations in which people are usually involved and in response to which they develop standard reactions based on cognitive factors, social and cultural influences, etc. Indeed, apart from built-in personality traits, other factors, such as the environment and the interaction personality-situation, are nowadays acknowledged as having an impact on behaviour and require that personality is examined on multiple levels (e.g. Funder,
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