Psychoticism

Eysenck s original theory of personality was based on only two personality dimensions—extraversión and neuroticism. After several years of alluding to psychoticism (P) as an independent personality factor, Eysenck finally elevated it to a position equal to E and N (Eysenck & Eysenck, 1976). Like extraversión and neuroticism, P is a bipolar factor, with psychoticism on one pole and superego on the other. High P scorers are often egocentric, cold nonconforming, impulsive, hostile, aggressive, suspicious, psychopathic, and antisocial. People low on psychoticism (in the direction of superego function) tend to be altruistic, highly socialized empathic, caring, cooperative, conforming, and conventional (S. Eysenck, 1997).

Earlier, we saw that Eysenck accepted the diathesis-stress model for people high on the neuroticism scale; that is, stress and high N scores combine to elevate people s vulnerability to psychological disorders. This model also suggests that people who score high on psychoticism and who are also experiencing levels of stress have an increased chance of developing a psychotic disorder. Eysenck (1994) hypothesized that people high on psychoticism have a high "predisposition to succumb to stress and develop a psychotic illness" (p. 20). This diathesis-stress model suggests that high P scorers are genetically more vulnerable to stress than are low P scorers. During periods of little stress, high P scorers may function normally, but when high psychoticism interacts with high levels of stress, people become vulnerable to psychotic disorders. By contrast, people with low P scores are not necessarily vulnerable to stress-related psychoses and will resist a psychotic break even in periods of extreme stress. According to Eysenck (1994b, 1994c), the higher the psychoticism score, the lower the level of stress necessary to precipitate a psychotic reaction.

Psychoticism/superego (P) is independent of both E and N. Figure 14.6

Neuroticism

Neuroticism

Eysenck Personality
FIGURE 14.6 Three-dimensional scheme depicting one individual's scores on each of Eysenck's major dimensions of personality.

shows each of the three factors at right angles with the other two. (Because three-dimensional space cannot be faithfully produced on a two-dimensional plane, the reader is asked to look at Figure 14.6 as if the solid lines represent the corner of a room where two walls meet the floor. Each line can then be seen as perpendicular to the other two.) Eysenck s view of personality, therefore, allows each person to be measured on tlnee independent factors and resultant scores to be plotted hi space having tlnee coordinates. Person F in Figure 14.6, for example, is quite high on superego, somewhat high on extraversión, and near the midpoint on the neuroti-cism/stability scale. In similar fashion, scores of each person can be plotted hi three-dimensional space.

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