Playing with Fire: The Controversial Career of Hans J. Eysenck

Author(s) : Roderick D. Buchanan

Playing with Fire: The Controversial Career of Hans J. Eysenck

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Probably no other psychologist has aroused such contrary reactions from the public and from the scientific community as Hans Eysenck. To the public, he was some kind of noble IQ warrior or "that disgraceful race and IQ guy". However, Britain's most prominent post-war psychologist had a different but equally divisive reputation amongst his scientific peers. Here was an intellectual leader in personality psychology who was greatly admired by a host of sympathetic colleagues, yet repeatedly dismissed by his many critics as a self-serving show-pony and widely suspected of being economical with the truth. Hans Eysenck played it like a game and he played to win. In the process, he made many who crossed swords with him feel like losers. Though, while bold and innovative, Eysenck made his share of mistakes and embraced causes and collaborators that no one else would. Not since Sir Cyril Burt - Eysenck's mentor - has a UK-based psychologist left a legacy that will be so fiercely debated. Playing with Fire is a full-length biography of Eysenck's career. It looks to explain the contradictions in Eysenck's public and professional image, and how one fed the other. It documents his boyhood in Berlin and the origin of his key ideas about personality, learning and the biogenetics of behaviour. It looks at the many clashes he had with any number of opponents - psychoanalysts, liberal social psychologists and the anti-tobacco public health lobby, to name a few. This is a provocative book about a provocative man. It combines years of assiduous research and important insights from science and technology studies in a very readable, accessible narrative. Always comparing the self-constructed legend with historical reality, it charts the story of an inveterate controversialist - the man they loved to hate.

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