Eysenck’s Theory of Personality Traits

eysenck theory

An Introduction to the Eysenck Theory of Three Factors (1947, 1966)

Hans Eysenck (1916-1997) developed a very influential trait theory of personality, which has successful infiltrated the public mindset with regards to how we think about personality in day-to-day life.

Using factor analysis to devise his theory, Eysenck (1947, 1966) identified three factors of personality: extroversion, neuroticism and psychoticism.

Each of the Eysenck Theory factors is a bipolar dimension, meaning that each has a direct opposite:

  • Extroversion vs. Introversion
  • Neuroticism vs. Emotional Stability
  • Psychoticism vs. Self-Control (added to the model in 1966)

It is worth noting that Eysenck’s use of the term ‘psychoticism’ differs from how most clinical psychologists would use the word. Eysenck is referring to anti-social behaviours, not a mental illness.

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Defining the Eysenck Theory Factors


n. an orientation of one’s interests and energies toward the outer world of people and things rather than the inner world of subjective experience. … Extroverts are relatively more outgoing, gregarious, sociable, and openly expressive.’1

Adjectives associated with extroversion include: impulsive, optimistic, active, sociable, outgoing and talkative.


n. orientation toward the internal private world of one’s self and one’s inner thoughts and feelings, rather than toward the outer world of people and things. … Introverts are relatively more withdrawn, retiring, reserved, quiet, and deliberate; they may tend to mute or guard expression of positive affect, adopt more skeptical views or positions, and prefer to work independently.’

Adjectives associated with introversion include: reserved, unsociable, quiet, passive, careful, thoughtful and peaceful.

Neuroticism (unstable)

‘characterized by a chronic level of emotional instability and proneness to psychological distress.’

Adjectives associated with neuroticism include: anxious, moody, touchy, restless and aggressive.

Emotionally Stable

Characterised by ‘predictability and consistency in emotional reactions, with absence of rapid mood changes.’

Adjectives associated with emotional stability include: reliable, even-tempered, calm, leadership and carefree.


n. a dimension of personality … characterized by aggression, impulsivity, aloofness, and anti-social behavior, indicating a susceptibility to psychosis and psychopathic disorders.’

Adjectives associated with emotional stability include: impulsive, aggressive, anti-social and aloof.

Self Control

n. the ability to be in command of one’s behavior (overt, covert, emotional, or physical) and to restrain or inhibit one’s impulses.’

Adjectives associated with self control include: restrained, calm, thoughtful and considerate.

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About Daniel Edward 65 Articles
Daniel set up Psychology Unlocked in 2016 to support Psychology students in higher and further education. Daniel has a Bachelor's and Master's Degree in Psychology, Politics and Sociology from the University of Cambridge.