Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Corr I 353
Conditioning/Eysenck: Eysenck (1957)(1) stated that introverted individuals (i.e., high arousal, or excitable process, type) are relatively easy to condition; whereas, extraverts (i.e., low arousal, or inhibitory process, type) are relatively less easy to condition. The observation that clinical neurotics are indeed introverts (they are also high on neurosis, which adds negative emotional fuel to the high-arousal fire) fitted the theory well, as did the clinical observation that behaviour therapy, which was based upon conditioning principles, was effective in the treatment of a number of neurotic conditions. >Extraversion/Eysenck, >Introversion/Eysenck.
Corr I 354
VsEysenck: (a) at high levels of stimulation, introverts were actually worse than extraverts at conditioning (Eysenck and Levey 1972)(2). Although this supported the Pavlovian notion of transmarginal inhibition (TMI) of response (i.e., a breakdown of the orderly stimuli-response relationship at too-high levels of stimulation), it simultaneously corroded the very foundations of the theory, for it led to the conclusion that extraverts should condition best to high arousing stimuli (including the panoply of aversive stimuli found in neurosis) and, therefore, should be overrepresented in the psychiatric clinic, which they are not for typical neurotic conditions.
(b) Compounded with this first problem was the finding, again from Eysenck’s own work (Eysenck and Levey 1972)(2) but also from other researchers (Revelle 1997)(3), that it is impulsivity, not sociability, that carried the causal burden of the arousal-conditioning link. As impulsivity is orthogonal, and thus independent of sociability (the main trait of Eysenck’s Extraversion scale), this destroyed not only the arousal-conditioning-Extraversion link, but also the relevance of Extraversion at all in conditioning effects, including those supposedly so crucial in the development of neurotic conditions.
(c) The relations observed between arousal and conditioning were observed to vary as a function of time of day: Eysenck-like sociability/impulsivity x arousal effects that are found with morning testing (e.g., introverts showing superior performance under placebo and TMI-related performance deficits under arousal, relative to extraverts) are reversed with evening testing. As ruefully noted by Gray (1981), one is not a neurotic in the morning and a psychopath in the evening!
(d) See >Conditioning/Psychological Theories, >Conditioning/Gray (>GrayVsEysenck).


1. Eysenck, H. J. 1967. The biological basis of personality. Springfield, IL: Thomas
2. Eysenck, H. J. and Levey, A. 1972. Conditioning, Introversion–Extraversion and the strength of the nervous system, in V. D. Nebylitsyn and J. A. Gray (eds), The biological bases of individual behaviour, pp. 206–20. London: Academic Press
3. Revelle, W. 1997. Extraversion and impulsivity: the lost dimension, in H. Nyborg (ed.), The scientific study of human nature: tribute to Hans J. Eysenck at eighty, pp. 189–212. Oxford: Elsevier Science Press



Philip J. Corr, „ The Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory of Personality“, in: Corr, Ph. J. & Matthews, G. (eds.) 2009. The Cambridge handbook of Personality Psychology. New York: Cambridge University Press


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Eysenck, Hans Jürgen
Corr I
Philip J. Corr
Gerald Matthews
The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology New York 2009

Corr II
Philip J. Corr (Ed.)
Personality and Individual Differences - Revisiting the classical studies Singapore, Washington DC, Melbourne 2018


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