psy230 eysencks theory 06

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Eysenck’s Theory of Personality & Crime: 

Eysenck’s Theory of Personality andamp; Crime Tarah Hook


Outline Getting to know Hans Eysenck Eysenck’s Theory of Personality Introversion – Extroversion Neuroticism Psychoticism Physiological Bases of Dimensions Empirical Evidence The EPQ

Hans Eysenck – The Man: 

Hans Eysenck – The Man 4th March, 1916 – 4th September, 1997 Born in Berlin, Germany early in the first World War Sought refuge in France then England Made Professor of Psychology in 1955 Studied: Personality, behavioural genetics, hazards of smoking, parapsychology, astrology, and others


Autobiography: Rebel with a Cause

Eysenck – The Psychologist: 

Eysenck – The Psychologist Iconoclast (enjoyed attacking established opinion). Vigorous critic of effectiveness of psychotherapy (esp. Freudian). Behaviorist / Statistician / Physiologically-oriented Very prolific: 75 books; over 700 articles

Eysenck’s Theory of Personality: 

Eysenck’s Theory of Personality Argued against sociological theories. Criminal behavior resulted from an interaction of environment and biology. Based on biology. Personality = Temperament (inborn/genetic) Focused on the functioning of the: Central nervous system Autonomic nervous system

Three dimensions: 

Three dimensions Actually argued for 4 dimensions: 'g' (general intelligence) Extraversion Neuroticism Psychoticism Most emphasis is on Neuroticism and Extraversion (Psychoticism was added later) Orthogonal constructs on a continuum.


Stable Neurotic Extraverted Intoverted Ambiverts Central NS Peripheral NS Sanguine Phlegmatic Choleric Melancholic


Tough-Minded Tender-Minded Psychoticism No nervous system mechanism associated


Extraversion - Introversion: 

Extraversion - Introversion Normal distribution in the population 68% ambiverts, 16% in each extreme Reflects 'need for stimulation'. Extraverts like excitement, become bored more easily, welcome the unconventional Similar but not identical to pop culture term 'extrovert'.

Physiological Bases of E-I: 

Physiological Bases of E-I CNS and RAS (reticular activating system)

RAS and E-I: 

RAS and E-I Extravert: RAS dampens stimulation leaving them underaroused Introvert: RAS amplifies stimulation leaving them over-aroused Different behaviors to same end result: Optimal level of arousal

E-I and Crime: 

E-I and Crime Criminals are more likely to be extraverts Impuslive Thrill-seeking Willing to take chances May be less able to internalize society’s rules – i.e., less ‘conditionable’.

Alcohol and the RAS: 

Alcohol and the RAS Basic assumption: Active, aroused cortex is a better inhibitor of behavior. CNS depressant Lowers arousal – behavior less inhibited. Makes introverts more extraverted. Makes extraverts even more extraverted. Strong association between alcohol and crime.

Neuroticism - Stable: 

Neuroticism - Stable Normal distribution Most in average range; 16% at each extreme Also called ‘emotionality’. 'biological predisposition to react physiologically to stressful events'.

Physiological Bases of N-S: 

Physiological Bases of N-S Autonomic nervous system Sympathetic: activates body for emergencies (flight or fight system). Parasympathetic: brings body back to normal after arousal by sympathetic system. Under the control of the Limbic system. Most important is the Hypothalamus.



Neurotics: Sympathetic system activated quickly, parasympathetic system, slow to respond Stables: Sympathetic system under-active while parasympathetic system overactive

N-S and Crime: 

N-S and Crime Criminals are more likely to be neurotic: Emotionality acts as a drive to habitual ways of responding. When under stress – do what you know best. Impacts criminality only if the individual has developed anti-social ‘habits’. More important factor as one ages (habits become more engrained).


Psychoticism Is not the same as 'psychosis' No established physiological mechanism but testosterone, monoamine oxidase and serotonin may be involved. Similar to Primary Psychopathy Cold cruelty, social insensitivity, dislike of others, attraction to the ‘unusual.

Conditionability & Crime: 

Conditionability andamp; Crime Three types of learning: Classical (Pavlovian). Instrumental (operant). Social.

Classical Conditioning: 

Classical Conditioning Food ---andgt; Salivation 2. Bell with Food ---andgt; Salivation 3. Bell ---andgt; Salivate

Instrumental Learning: 

Instrumental Learning Forms an association between behaviour and consequence. Four possible consequences to a behavior: Something Good can start or be presented, so behavior increases = Positive Reinforcement Something Good can end or be taken away, so behavior decreases = Negative Punishment Something Bad can start or be presented, so behavior decreases = Positive Punishment Something Bad can end or be taken away, so behavior increases = Negative Reinforcement

Social Learning: 

Social Learning More complex Involves learning by watching others and organizing social experiences in the brain. Not addressed in Eysenck’s Theory

Eysenck’s question: 

Eysenck’s question 'Why don’t more people engage in criminal behaviour?' Rewards for criminal behavior are generally instantaneous. Chances of receiving punishment are, in reality, quite slim. When punishment does occur, it is temporally very distant from the behavior.

Eysenck’s Answer: 

Eysenck’s Answer Classical conditioning plays a bigger role than operant/instrumental learning. Conscience as a conditioned reflex. Antisocial behavior is paired with punishment. Thought of antisocial behavior evokes fear of consequences Effects: Prevents us from doing antisocial behaviors Causes us to feel guilty after we do.

Evidence for Eysenck’s Theory: 

Evidence for Eysenck’s Theory General prediction: Criminals as a group will demonstrate: Lower levels of cortical arousal (extraversion) Higher levels of autonomic arousal (neuroticism) More tough-mindedness (psychoticism) In other words: they will score high on E, N, and P Factors are not just correlated, they are causal.

Mixed support: 

Mixed support Theory as a whole may still be useful but may need some modification. Passingham (1972): Reviewed all literature prior to 1972. Found methodological flaws in most. Frequent problems with control groups. Frequent failure to delineate subgroups.

Findings of Research: 

Findings of Research Criminals higher on extraversion. Not-consistently supported. Especially inconsistent for adult male offenders and for delinquents of both sexes. Some support for increased impulsiveness facet of extraversion.

Research Findings (Con’t): 

Research Findings (Con’t) Berman andamp; Paisey (1984) American male juvenile delinquents Looked at assaultive vs. non-assaultive Assaultive group scores higher on all three of Eysenck’s dimensions (E, N, and P). Psychoticism showed the largest difference between groups.

Research Findings (Con’t): 

Research Findings (Con’t) Silva, Martorell, and Clemente (1986) Compared delinquent to non-delinquent males. Delinquents scored higher on P and N. Non-delinquents scored higher on E. Lane (1987) Found higher P scores among delinquents, higher N scores among non-delinquents and no differences on E.

Findings of Research: 

Findings of Research Criminals higher on: Extraversion – mixed/weak support Neuroticism – not supported Psychoticism – moderately supported Likely reflects a weakness in the theory: Criminals are weak conditioners – too general Some may be but this doesn’t capture to heterogeneity (variety) of backgrounds and reasons for criminal behavior.

Research on Offender Subgroups: 

Research on Offender Subgroups Bartol andamp; Holanchoch (1979) Divided sample into 6 subgroups homicide, aggravated assault and attempted murder, rape and sexual assault, robbery, burglary, and drug offenses Found that the EPQ was able to differentiate between groups of offenders. All offender groups scored lower than control group on E.

Why mixed support:: 

Why mixed support: Rather than discard the theory completely, we are better off using it as a starting point to understand personality and crime: More research is needed on: Cultural factors Problems with the control groups Wording of the questions on the EPQ.

The Importance of Eysenck’s Theory: 

The Importance of Eysenck’s Theory One of the few comprehensive statements about genetics and antisocial behavior. Recognizes the interaction of the environment (classical conditioning) and the nervous system). One of the only attempts (from a psychological framework) to formulate a general universal theory of criminal behavior.

Eysenck References (FYI): 

Eysenck References (FYI) Crime and Personality (1964) The Biological Basis of Personality (1967) Psychoticism as a Dimension of Personality (1976)

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