The Dimensions and Structure of Temperament

Eysenck's first attempts to develop a temperament theory consisted in a description of the main dimensions of the structure of personality or temperament (here used as synonyms). It should be emphasized once again that, according to Eysenck, "temperament, that is the noncognitive aspects of personality" (H. J. Eysenck & Eysenck, 1985, p. 353) is regarded as the phenomenon that comprises the dimensions discussed here.

As early as 1944, Eysenck, under the influence of Jung's ideas and MacKinnon's (1944) confusing considerations regarding the place of extraversion and neuroticism in the structure of personality, conducted a psychometric study on 700 neurotic soldiers. The data from this study led him to separate two independent factors: neuroticism, and hysteria versus dysthymia, where hysteria was typical for the breakdown of extraverts and dysthymia for the breakdown of introverts.

Viewed chronologically, the main temperament dimensions distinguished by H. J. Eysenck (1947, 1952, 1970) were extraversion and neuroticism. Early in the 1950s H. J. Eysenck (1952) suggested that psychoticism might be regarded as a third dimension of temperament, but this idea was fully elaborated only in the 1970s (H. J. Eysenck & Eysenck, 1976; see also H. J. Eysenck, 1992a), especially after an inventory was constructed which permitted measurement of this trait (H. J. Eysenck & Eysenck, 1975).

Exhaustive factor analytic studies conducted by Eysenck over several decades on a variety of populations as well as findings of psychometric techniques (self-ratings and other-ratings) and laboratory experimentation led him to conclude that the structure of temperament consists of three basic factors: psychoticism (P), extraversion (E), and neuroticism (N), often identified as superfactors (H. J. Eysenck, 1978, H. J. Eysenck & Eysenck, 1985), biological dimensions (H. J. Eysenck, 1990b), major dimensions (H. J. Eysenck, 1990a), or types (H. J. Eysenck & Eysenck, 1985) of personality. The three superfactors are orthogonal to each other. They have a hierarchical structure and are composed of first-order factors (primary traits) which, in turn, result from a group of correlated behavioral acts or action tendencies. The hierarchical structure of the PEN superfactors is illustrated on Figure 2.2.

Curiously enough, it is difficult, if not possible, to find in Eysenck's publications a typical definition of these factors. The three superfactors "are defined in terms of observed intercorrelations between traits" (H. J. Eysenck, 1990b, p. 244). Thus extraversion, as opposed to introversion, is composed of such traits as sociability, liveliness, activity, assertiveness, and sensation seeking. Neuroticism, for which emotionality is used as the synonym, has the following components: anxiety, depression, guilt feelings, low self-esteem, and tension. The opposite pole of neuroticism is emotional stability. Psychoticism, the opposite of which is impulse control, consists of such primary traits as aggression, coldness, egocentrism, impersonality, and impulsiveness.

The psychoticism dimension differs basically from E and N in that it is directly related to pathology. According to Eysenck psychoticism represents a dimensional continuity which at one pole may be described by such characteristics as altruism, empathy, and socialization and at the opposite pole by such psychotic syndromes as criminality, psychopathy, and schizophrenia (H. J. Eysenck, 1992a) as shown on Figure 2.3.

Pen Eysencka

FIGURE 2.2. Hierarchical structure of Eysenck's three superfactors: Psychoticism (P), Extraversion (E), and Neuroticism (N). Note. From Personality and Individual Differences: A Natural Science Approach (p. 14-15), by H. J:Eysenck and M. W. Eysenck, 1985, New York: Plenum Press. Copyright 1985 by Plenum Press. Reprinted with permission.

FIGURE 2.2. Hierarchical structure of Eysenck's three superfactors: Psychoticism (P), Extraversion (E), and Neuroticism (N). Note. From Personality and Individual Differences: A Natural Science Approach (p. 14-15), by H. J:Eysenck and M. W. Eysenck, 1985, New York: Plenum Press. Copyright 1985 by Plenum Press. Reprinted with permission.

Although it is not unlikely that other superfactors will be discovered in the future, H. J. Eysenck (1990b; H. J. Eysenck & Eysenck, 1985) claimed that for the current state of personality research the PEN superfactors comprise the whole personality (excluding intelligence), and they have been identified in scores of culturally diverse countries (see, e.g., Barrett & Eysenck, 1984). Thus, the three superfactors may be used as the most universal taxonomy by which personality can be described.

FIGURE 2.3. Diagrammatic representation of the continuity theory of "psychoticism." Note. From "The Definition and Measurement of Psychoticism," by H. J. Eysenck, 1992, Personality and Individual Differences, 13, p. 758. Copyright 1992 by Elsevier Science Ltd. Reprinted with permission.

FIGURE 2.3. Diagrammatic representation of the continuity theory of "psychoticism." Note. From "The Definition and Measurement of Psychoticism," by H. J. Eysenck, 1992, Personality and Individual Differences, 13, p. 758. Copyright 1992 by Elsevier Science Ltd. Reprinted with permission.

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