Symposia

APA Presidents Remember:

Hans Eysenck - Visionary Psychologist

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At the 1998 Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association in San Francisco on August 14 a session memorializing the late Hans J. Eysenck was presented. Organised and moderated by then Division One President Frank Farley, it involved some past APA Presidents familiar with the man and his work.

The following is a slightly edited/revised version of that session.

... Frank Farley Temple University

... Nicholas Cummings University of Nevada

... Martin Seligman University of Pennsylvania

... Charles Spielberger University of South Florida

 

 

 

 

 

Frank Farley

Hans Eysenck was clearly one of the great visionaries of twentieth century psychology. He passed away from a brain tumor in September 1997. In the history of British or World psychology I think there has been nobody quite like Hans Eysenck.

At the time that he died he was the most prolific living psychologist. He was also the most cited living psychologist. I think he had something like 1,600 - 1,800 articles; and closing in on one hundred books.

 

Frank Farley - Nicholas Cummings

Nick Cummings, our first speaker, is one of the giants of twentieth century clinical psychology. He has done it all. He is by all accounts one of the great visionaries of clinical psychology and the practice of psychology. He is a past president of APA. He founded the National Academies of Practice, which covers the medical fields and psychological fields. I am thrilled that he is able to be here and make a few comments on Hans Eysenck.

Nicholas Cummings

I have to start off with a confession. I spent the first forty-five years of my professional life angry with Hans Eysenck. It has only been the last ten years that I became an ardent admirer. I was angry for forty-five years at Hans because in a previous life he had written extensively on outcomes in psychotherapy and had concluded that psychotherapy was no more effective than hocus-pocus. As a card-carrying clinician, I was furious.

In 1988, the Journal of Personality asked me to critique his latest publication. I decided to take a second look at Dr. Eysenck. I stepped back and read not only this publication but also some of his more recent work. Although I found myself far from agreement with him, I began to appreciate what he was doing.

I entitled my critique "Cassandra Strikes Again", referring back to the prophet in ancient Greece who was totally unheeded no matter how many prophecies were given. I set about to perhaps take Professor Eysenck to task for spending so much time chastising us for coming up with unverifiable hypotheses of personality, without spending any time to create, discover, refine more and better experiments or methodologies with which to test the hypotheses.

He was baffled by my approach and he wrote so in a reply in the Journal of Personality. He wrote to me directly and sent me the reply before it was published. This started a decade of correspondence between us.

I want to read to you how I ended "Cassandra Strikes Again". I said, "Psychology desperately needs advances in verifying methodologies". I am not suggesting that we must breakthrough, as did physics, mathematics and astronomy. We have not begun to approach the pristine beauty of Newtonian physics. But frankly my dear, physics, Eysenck and most of the world doesn't seem to give a damn. I anticipate that Eysenck will continue to play Cassandra. In an enclave where most of us are guilty of original sin, one is accorded much attention when playing the unheeded prophet. I for one am glad, for I would miss his charm, wit and exploitations of the frailties of the science of psychology. In the words of Henry Murray, "We have more scientistism than science."

In the correspondence that ensued over several years with Hans, we grew bonded and then I began to spend a great deal of time in the United Kingdom, spending every other fortnight in England. I happened to be in the U.K. when Professor Eysenck was mercilessly attacked by his colleagues for having made some favorable statements about the place of biofeedback in behavioral care. The British were so uptight about this and I came to his defense. Our bonding grew even tighter.

I was of course devastated when he passed on. I looked for many more years of relationship, both as friends and professionals. I hark back, and I must now put it in the past tense, I for one am glad for Hans Eysenck. I will miss his charm, wit and exploitations of the frailties of the science of psychology. Thank you.

 

Frank Farley - Frank Farley

Thank you Nick. Well, I guess I am the next speaker, so I won't introduce myself, other than to say that I received my doctorate under Hans Eysenck. It was a fabulous experience.

Frank Farley

I will paraphrase briefly from the New York Times. When they ran an obituary of Hans, they asked me if I would write some things, only a small part of which they used. I stated that his work has been monumental in many areas. I expressed that he was the British equivalent of B. F. Skinner in the extent of his influence inside and outside of the field.

He led the way in defining the structure of human personality. Identifying the structure of something as complex as human personality is truly one of the grand accomplishments of twentieth century psychology - indeed twentieth century science in general. We do not have all the answers about human personality of course, but we have many in large part because of Hans's work. He led the way in seeking the biological and brain bases of individual differences, especially personality. He saw personality as one of the central integrating concepts in human behavior. He developed leading tests of personality that are used around the world today.

He was a truly Renaissance researcher and a Renaissance person. He spoke several languages and he read widely. I remember coming into his office one day and there was a book whose title was something like "The Autobiography of a Witch", lying on his desk. I said, "What are you reading there Hans? It seems a bit far afield from scientific psychology." He replied, "I met her last night at a party. She's very interesting; I am going to have to look into this."

Hans undertook highly original and influential research on so many topics including the arts and aesthetics- his own doctoral dissertation was in aesthetics- behavior genetics, the behavioral therapies (I believe he coined the term "behavior therapy"), sexual behavior, politics, political attitudes, even research into parapsychology. He was an open-minded person about these wide-ranging topics. In some respects he also helped found the scientific and experimental approach to clinical psychology and treatment.

He mentored hundreds of students. He used to have a large tote board outside of his office where each student's name was listed. It numbered into the hundreds at the time I was his student and now, when he died, it must have been many more hundreds. Each student's name would be noted and what their current status was, starting at the dissertation proposal stage all the way through to chaired professor. You could look it over and see the life and times of all of his students.

He was a long time critic of aspects of Freudian psychoanalysis, especially the difficulty of proving Freud's theory scientifically. He always held the highest standards of scientific method applied to psychological questions. He was also a great popularizer of psychology, writing many books for lay audiences. That is how I got to know of him, through reading "Fact and Fiction in Psychology", "Sense and Nonsense in Psychology", "Uses and Abuses of Psychology", it went on and on.

Hans was a loving family man. He had a great family and great relationships with his kids. Sybil, his wife, is also a distinguished psychologist.

I could go on about all the awards he received. By the way, he was much more honored in the United States than he was in England, so I guess a prophet has little honor in his own homeland. APA has given its lifetime achievement award that has been given to very few people. The American Psychological Society gave him its highest award.

He was my mentor, hero and friend. Thirty-seven or thirty-eight years ago, sitting in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, I had a Bachelor's degree and no prospects. I had heard of Eysenck's work and I had read those popular books. I knew some people who had studied with him, so I decided to give it a try. I wrote him and he told me I would have to get a Master's degree because a Canadian Master's degree was roughly equivalent to a British Bachelor's degree. That cost me two or three years, but I recovered and got my degree and left Saskatoon, Saskatchewan for England.

When I arrived in London, I met his secretary who took me unannounced to see the Prof. They always called him "The Prof", the only Full Professor in the Department. I was wearing a floor length, bright red, plaid great coat, because it was in the middle of winter in Western Canada and that is what you wore (well, at least some did!) When I entered his office to meet him for the first time he looked me up and down very slowly and said, "You must be the Canadian." I thought to myself "He's as sharp as they say!" Then, after a lengthy pause, his next utterance was "Do you play squash?" Knowing nothing of squash, I wondered what this question might mean. Was this some sort of litmus test for new students? What is squash? I fearfully and hesitatingly replied in a barely audible voice "No." He heard me and seemed faintly disappointed, finally uttering "Pity."

I figured I was finished. My career was over before it began. He then got up and told me to check his secretary about the program and left for, I later learned, his mandatory lunch and squash game. Well, I later tried to learn squash to get in good graces with "The Prof". But I was a miserable failure.

Despite all of that I got my doctorate with him and we became great friends. I loved the man. I owe him so much.

 

Frank Farley - Charles Spielberger

We all know Charlie Spielberger. He is Mr. Anxiety, Mr. Anger. No, no, that is not his personality, of course, that is what he studies! His work in anxiety is the definitive work worldwide, as is his work on anger. Charlie knew Hans Eysenck as well as anybody did. His recent presidency of APA brought a long overdue focus on education. He was APA's "education president".

Charles Spielberger

I was not as close to Hans as Frank, but he was my hero as well. In reflecting on Hans's distinguished contributions and his memory, I pulled out the obituary that appeared in the New York Times, September 9, 1997, just a few days after he passed away. It nicely captures the public persona of Hans, but not the nature of the man. It correctly states: "Hans Eysenck was a psychologist who questioned the scientific validity of psychotherapy and wrote controversial books on intelligence, crime and smoking." He certainly did all of that.

As Nick Cummings has pointed out, Hans was a devastating critic of conventional psychotherapy. In his 1953 article he raised questions about the efficacy of psychoanalytic psychotherapy and laid the foundation for the rapid development of behavior therapy. He wrote extensively on crime and personality, where his work took an interesting perspective because he considered problems in crime to result from the lack of conditioning of anxiety as a way of inhibiting anti-social and aggressive behavior.

He also wrote extensively on smoking and called attention to something that gets lost in the public efforts to attribute cancer to smoking. It was Hans's view, and I think supported by a lot of evidence, that the personality factors that contribute to developing the habit of smoking also contribute to the development of cancer and heart disease. There is growing evidence to support his position. While Hans did not say that smoking doesn't contribute to cancer, he pointed out that you have to look at the reasons why people smoke, as well as the impact of the smoking itself.

I would like to reflect a little bit on my personal relationship with Hans. He was known to be a very outspoken person, but if you got to know him - and in his own view - he was extremely introverted. It was difficult for him even to engage in a conversation with someone he didn't know. Because of this introversion, he came across as rather harsh and critical. But when you got to know him, he was an extremely helpful person. He really cared about other people.

I can personally attest to the number of ways that he has helped me. I first got to know him in 1972. Irwin Sarason and I were writing a proposal for a NATO Advanced Study Institute to study stress and anxiety. We thought it might help us to get the grant if we invited Hans to join us on the Organizing Committee, which he did. We anticipated that he would lend us his name and that would be about all. But he was helpful in every phase of developing this program, for example putting us in touch with one of his students, Hans Brengelman in Munich. His students were all over the world.

It is also interesting to note that Hans revolutionized British psychology. Although he himself was not a clinician, he organized the very first clinical training program. He saw the need, and his students turned out to become professors in the red brick universities in England and elsewhere in the U.K. Now it is very hard to go anywhere without running into one of Hans's former students. One of the most prominent of them, Jeffrey Gray, succeeded him as Chairman of the Department of Psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry, University of London.

I have a very vivid recollection of something that we put together at an APA convention when I was the National President of Psi Chi. On very short notice, we got Hans Eysenck and B. F. Skinner to sit together at a conversation hour. We thought a lot of sparks would fly, but they were most congenial and most complimentary about each other's work. I think it helped them to become good friends over a long period of time.

Another thing about Hans that was most striking, as Frank has pointed out, was that he had more than 1600 publications and approaching at least a hundred books, but he had the cleanest desk I have ever seen. When you met with him and raised a question about something, he would say, "Well, I am not sure about that," and would then immediately go, no matter what the subject, to his files where he could find whatever it was that you were asking about.

Hans Eysenck was truly a remarkable man. Since you are here at this memorial, you know that he will be missed. Those who knew him will miss him as a person, as well as one of the most outstanding contributors to psychological science in the twentieth century.

Frank Farley

Productivity was one of the hallmarks of Hans Eysenck. I was reminded as Charlie was speaking of a conversation I had with Hans's secretary, Shirley Chumbley. Shirley was his secretary from the 1960's until his death; an amazing almost 35 year history of mutual respect and loyalty.

I once asked her, "How could 'The Prof' be so productive? How could this be?" There were some things about his productivity that I did know. He would dictate things once, and that was the end of it. It went out for publication, no revisions. He had all of the articles in his head. We students would see him through his office window, pacing back and forth, dictating an article, noting references from memory.

Shirley, however, showed me the main reason for his productivity. She took me over to a set of cabinets, pulled out one file drawer after another, all packed with (filled) letters. I said, "So what is this?" and she replied, "These are all of the letters the professor has written to various committees saying that he won't be able to attend the meeting!"

 

Frank Farley - Martin Seligman

Our next speaker, Marty Seligman, is certainly known to all of us. He is our current APA president. He is the fountainhead of optimism. He has had quite an intellectual journey himself, going from helplessness to optimism. That has to be quite a trip! You know; it is almost like the story of the human race itself; we start out helpless and end up standing on top of the mountain with hope and with optimism. Marty has been a contemporary leader on that. He also has done something of particular relevance to us today. Marty has taught a whole course on Hans Eysenck. Even Hans didn't do that!

Martin Seligman

Simply put, we are here to mourn the death of the greatest psychologist of the second half of the twentieth century. I have two intellectual heroes. They are parallel figures in some ways. One is Ludwig Wittgenstein, the philosopher, both in person and in what he wrote. The other is Hans Eysenck from our own field. As Frank mentioned, before I took this office as APA president, the last course I taught was "The Life of Hans Eysenck". The reason I wanted to teach it had to do with the way in which Hans's personality, his work, the way in which the life of the mind and the notion of courage are intertwined. Our text was his marvelous autobiography "Rebel with a Cause". I recommend it to all if you don't know it.

My own mentor was Dick Solomon. There was a similarity. Dick also died within the last two years. The similarity between Hans and Dick is rare in people I have met. That was when you entered their presence, when you entered Hans's presence, no matter where you were physically, no matter what was going on in the world (you might be in the middle of a divorce or he might be), a quiet crept over both of you, and the only presence was the life of mind. There was a peace and a quiet and an intellectual intensity that he imposed on conversation.

My last conversation with him was two years ago. We found ourselves together at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. It was one of the noisiest places I have ever been at. I am hard of hearing anyway, but I couldn't hear what was going on. Hans and I saw each other, went up to each other and this invisible bubble enveloped us. We spent half an hour in the midst of this great shouting, talking about the difference between effectiveness and efficacy in outcome research and the future of this field.

Hans used to say that, "Truth will out". Along with the intellectual intensity, what mediated the courage was his optimism, his belief that in our endeavor, truth will out. Hans, as you know, was Prussian. The tale of his escape from Hitler's Germany, I will leave for you to read; he tells it better than any of us can. Along with his Prussian upbringing and his revolt against Germany and what it stood for in the 1930's there was this quaint mannerism he had, which he said he could never lose. I call it "Eysenck's potato". I don't know how many of you ever ate a baked potato with Hans Eysenck. Hans would compulsively take the baked potato, slice it three ways that way, seven ways that way, twice that way and then eat it in little rectangles. Somehow he couldn't resist it, I somehow couldn't resist telling you about Eysenck's potato.

We all know Hans's theory of introversion. It comes out of the notion that extraversion is mediated essentially by brain damage; essentially extraverts are quiet inside. They are so quiet inside that they need to go outside to get stimulation. Well, Hans was one of the most introverted and at peace people I have ever met. He lived his theory. There was so much going on inside that he knew how to be quiet. If you knew how to turn on the spigot, it was turned on when he was among friends, you saw some of what was inside.

I had the privilege of presenting Hans with the William James Award of the American Psychological Society, four years ago. I labored over the citation. I want to read it to you, it sums up what I think Hans was: "The American Psychological Society names Hans Jurgen Eysenck as the William James Fellow in recognition of a lifetime of distinguished contribution to psychological science. For more than fifty years he has led the struggle to bring science to bear on the most significant issues of our times; a skeptic, who insists that human aspirations conform to fact, not vice-versa. He brings phenomena from the penumbra into the light.

At the age of fifteen he fled Hitler's Germany and within twenty years became one of England's most prolific scientists. His seminal early work on individual differences focuses on extraversion, neuroticism and psychoticism as the underlying dimensions of personality. He led and he won the battle to put therapy on a scientific, behavioral footing. With the vision of human nature as biosocial, he breathed life into the study of the genetics of personality. He has allied himself with unpopular positions such as the attack on psychoanalytic psychotherapy, the selective contribution of cigarettes to cancer based on personality, the genetics of intelligence, the benefits of behavior therapy for physical health, and the puzzling but strong predictive power of planetary position at birth on career choice. His is an articulate, moderate and stable voice raised to defend the positions most in need of a defender. Time and again the accumulation of facts have vindicated him. For the reach of his visionary intellect, for the grasp of his scholarly achievements, for his students that have fanned across the globe to lead the next generation, for his good sense, for his vigorous voice, for his devotion to fact and above all for his unflagging courage, we recognise Hans Eysenck as a leader in psychological science".

We mourn Hans. The world of the life of the mind is emptier without him.

Frank Farley

Let me just add a couple of things that I thought about as Marty was talking. We do identify Hans mostly with extraversion/introversion. He certainly was a leading proponent of it as a fundamental dimension of personality.

We used to feel that being associated with Hans gave us a place in the world. A place in life. He was such a powerful figure and such a gentle person. So easy to get along with and so accessible. I had a phrase that captured this, "Eysenck, therefore I am".

Frank Farley

I do believe we have come to the end of this special remembrance of Hans Eysenck. I would like to thank our panelists for participating.

 

Reprinted by kind permission from Frank Farley; April 2000.

 

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