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Eysenck, Hans

        Health | Great Psychologists

Eysenck, Hans (1916-1997) was a German-born British psychologist who criticized conventional psychotherapy. He often held controversial views, and he was particularly opposed to Freudian psychoanalysis.

Eysenck was born in Berlin on March 4, 1916. At age 18, he left Germany when the Nazis came to power. He was opposed to the regime of Adolf Hitler, and he left Germany in 1934 after discovering that to enter the University of Berlin, he would be required to join the Nazi party. He studied briefly in France and then entered the University of London in England. He received his doctorate in psychology in 1940 and then worked as a research psychologist from 1942 to 1950. In 1950, he was appointed director of the psychology department of the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London. Five years later, he became professor of psychology at the university. He remained there until his retirement in 1983.

Eysenck wrote dozens of technical and popular psychology books and hundreds of papers and articles, making him one of the most prolific authors in his field. He was skeptical of the methods of Sigmund Freud and other psychoanalysts, and he advocated treating the symptoms of mental illness rather than the underlying causes. He was a behaviorist. He believed that learned habits were important and that psychological problems were caused by errors of learning, and he developed alternative treatments for mental disorders in the form of behavior therapy. His techniques used conditioning to teach patients new behaviors.

Eysenck often held controversial views, particularly in his study that purported to show racial differences in intelligence. He was primarily interested in temperament. He believed that genetic factors play a large part in determining psychological differences among people, and he therefore considered personality differences to be the result of genetics. Eysenck continued to write until his death in 1997.