Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Freud versus Eysenck Theories of Personality



            Theories of personality that were developed throughout the 20th century were varied in approach and substance. There were four major schools the psychodynamic, humanistic, trait theorists, and the social cognitive perspective (Gedney-Rubel, 2014). This paper will compare and contrast two perspectives, the psychodynamic and the work of Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939) with trait theory and the work of Hans Eysenck (1916 – 1997).

As its name suggests, psychodynamic theory is centered on the idea that there’s a continuous dynamic conflict between the conscious and the unconscious mind (Deal, 2007). This perspective was pioneered by Freud, who relied heavily on his clinical observations with his patients in order to develop his theories (Ciabattari, 2014). Freud also proposed two personality models, the topographic and the structural models. The first is composed of the mental layers, the conscious, pre-conscious, and the unconscious. The structural model includes the id, ego, and superego. Both models overlap, where the id and the superego are unconscious drives, and the ego is the conscious mind that mitigates between the unconscious desires of the id, and the unconscious moral compass of the super-ego. When the dynamic conflicts of the unconscious can’t be resolved, a state of neurosis presents itself.

Freud’s theory relied heavily on the influence of the unconscious, but because he relied heavily of self-report, introspection, and other subjective techniques to form his theories, they were deemed unscientific due to the difficulty of testing them empirically.  (Twenge & Campbell, 2017).

Trait theory on the other hand was propelled forward by Gordon Allport, who defined personality through conscious motivations and behavior patterns, also by using traits as descriptive measures of personality rather than attempting to explain it (Rosenzweig & Fisher, 1997). Hans Eysenck was a trait theorist whose work revolved around the notion that people’s traits are inborn and is rooted in biology, he designated those traits as temperaments (Eysenck, 1967) Eysenck was also the first trait theorist to use the statistical tool of factor analysis to determine personality traits, he developed what is known as the Eysenck 3 factor model . In it, people’s personalities are measured on a sliding scale between two opposite traits. The three main factors are neuroticism vs calm, introversion vs extroversion, and psychotic vs impulse control (Costa & McRae, 1995). Eysenck theorized that high scores on the neuroticism scale meant that people will be more likely to suffer from neurotic problems, and not neurotic themselves. As for introversion and extraversion, he hypothesized that extraverted brains required more external stimulation than introverted brains, which are more sensitive to external stimuli. As for high scores on the psychoticism scale, they indicate that in certain environments, the individual will have very low impulse control and a tendency to be out of touch with reality (Cooper, 2010).

Eysenck’s 3 factor model was later developed by Paul Costa and Robert McRae into what is now known as the 5 factor model, which is the revised and updated scientific approach to measuring personality (Costa & McRae, 1995). However, Freud, even though was unscientific in his approach, he was the first to emphasize unconscious drives, which shape personality (Deal, 2007).



Ciabattari, J. (2014, April 22). Does Sigmund Freud still matter ? Retrieved July 31, 2018, from BBC:

Cooper, C. (2010). Biological, Cognitive and Social Bases of Personality. In Individual differences and personality (pp. 96–117). London: Hodder.

Costa, P., & McRae, R. (1995). Primary traits of eysenck's p-e-n system: three- and five-factor solutions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 308.

Deal, K. H. (2007). Psychodynamic theory . Advances in Social Work.

Eysenck, H. J. (1967). The biological basis of personality. Springfield: Thomas Publishing.

Gedney-Rubel, S. (2014). Exploring personality theory: past, present, and future considerations. New Hampshire: Southern New Hampshire University.

Rosenzweig, S., & Fisher, S. L. (1997). "Idiographic" vis-a-vis "idiodynamic" in the historical perspective of personality theory: Remembering Gordon Allport, 1897-1997. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences , 405-419.

Twenge, J. M., & Campbell, W. K. (2017). Psychodynamic approaches. In Personality Psychology: Understanding Yourself and Others (pp. 142-176). New York: Pearson.


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