Hans and Sybil Eysenck
Ph.D. under Hans at the Institute of Psychiatry from 1971 -1973
Dr. Gus Thompson
The trouble with Hans Eysenck’s formidable debating ability was that he would win arguments when he was wrong. Although his arguments (mostly not wrong) were quietly stated and sometimes so subtle that they could be viewed as being less punchy than afterthought showed them to be, many were simply intimidated by his intelligence. This was especially true of new students. I managed to avoid this by accident, however. Early on, through naivete, I walked directly into Hans’ office to try out an idea that I had on opponent-process theory & colour vision and its possible association with arousal and personality. What I didn’t know was that unwritten protocol required me to first check with Tess in the office anteroom to get clearance or, more often, an appointment at some later time. Happily, the discussion with Hans went quite well. Thus, even though I later learned about the rules, I took advantage of the precedent and blithely walked into his office when I felt the need to speak with him. In spite of the nature of this initial meeting with Hans, I got along very well with Tess (intimidating in her own right, but very helpful), and I didn’t follow up on the opponent-process ideas.
A friend hadn’t had such luck. He worriedly came to speak to fellow student Mike Wiseman and myself because the results of his major study did not support some aspects of the Eysenckian theory of extraversion. Mike and I both encouraged him to overcome his fear of disclosure – we were quite sure that Hans would not likely be unkind when the findings were revealed. As it turned out, Hans pointed out that whenever he (Hans) found an interesting result he made up a theory to explain it. As a budding scientist it was the student’s job to set up an experiment that could disprove the theory – that being the way science works. In the end, Hans didn’t terrorize my friend, he congratulated him. No wonder it was such a rich place to study.