The Backlash Begins: My Paper Rejected Across 65 BMC-series Journals for Bogus Reasons on the Day the Guardian Slates Eysenck

This update is part of a series of posts concerning the late Professor Hans J Eysenck, one of the most prolific psychologists of all time. Eysenck worked at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London.

The context is the publication by the psychiatrist Anthony Pelosi of a penetrating critique of the research publications by Professor H J Eysenck and an editorial and Open Letter to KCL in the same issue of the Journal of Health Psychology published in February 2019.

This post begins with an article in the Guardian in which the author of the Eysenck critique, Tony Pelosi, gave a first person account of his role in the affair.

The Guardian Article

On Friday 11 October, 2019, at 11.05 BST Sarah Boseley’s Guardian article is published. The article begins:

“The work of one of the most famous and influential British psychologists of all time, Hans Eysenck, is under a cloud following an investigation by King’s College London, which has found 26 of his published papers “unsafe”.

King’s says the results and conclusions of the papers “were not considered scientifically rigorous” by its committee of inquiry. Prof Sir Robert Lechler, the provost at King’s, has contacted the editors of the 11 journals where the papers appeared, recommending they should be retracted.”

The first of the 11 journals

is the Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies, a quarterly journal published by the Council for Social and Economic Studies. According to the description in Wikipedia, this journal has been “identified as one of two international journals which regularly publishes articles pertaining to race and intelligence with the goal of supporting the idea that white people are inherently superior…”

Nice one, Hans!

The nine other journals include two founded by Hans Eysenck

These two journals contain 8 ‘unsafe’ articles: Behaviour Research and Therapy, and Personality and Individual Differences are both published by Elsevier. A third Elsevier journal is the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry 

The Journal of Behavior Therapy and Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science are both published by Springer. However, not all 61 of the suspect publications were included in the KCL review. The KCL Enquiry failed to include 35 of the 61 suspect publications Several publications on the list of 61 suspect publications are published by Springer, including the three editions of a book in which personality is argued by Eysenck to be a greater risk factor for cancer and coronary heart disease than smoking:

  • Eysenck, H.J. (1991). Smoking, personality and stress: psychosocial factors in the prevention of cancer and coronary heart disease. Springer-Verlag Berlin.
  • Eysenck, H.J. (2011). Smoking, personality and stress: psychosocial factors in the prevention of cancer and coronary heart disease. Soft cover edition. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.
  • Eysenck, H.J. (2012). Smoking, personality and stress: psychosocial factors in the prevention of cancer and coronary heart disease. Kindle edition. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.

The e-book is currently available on the Springer website for €74.96. The book’s author is incorrectly stated to be “Eysenck, Michael” something I feel sure Michael Eysenck would want to have corrected asap.Screen Shot 2019-10-14 at 10.38.33.png

The blurb about the book states:

“It is often suggested that the incidence of cancer and coronary heart disease could be much reduced or even eliminated if only people would stop smoking cigarettes and eat fewer high-cholesterol foods. The evidence, however, shows that such views are simplistic and unrealistic and that, instead, cancer and CHD are the product of many risk factors acting synergistically. Psychosocial factors (stress, personality) are six times as predictive as smoking, cholesterol level or blood pressure and much more responsive to prophylactic treatment. This book admits that, while smoking is a risk factor for cancer and CHD, its effects have been exaggerated. A more realistic appraisal of a very complex chain of events incorporating many diverse factors is given, and appropriate action to prevent cancer and coronary heart disease is discussed.”

This Springer Verlag – Book published by “The #1 Science Publisher‎” must be withdrawn.

As stated in my February 22, 2019, JHP editorial, “To his eternal shame, the attempts by Hans Eysenck to discredit the well-established causal links between tobacco smoking and cancer while in receipt of large sums from the tobacco industry is one of the most shameful deceits committed by any scientist in the Twentieth Century.”

26th ‘Unsafe’ Paper

On Friday 11 October, 2019 at 17.41 BST, I received notification from the Institute of Psychiatry that the 26th ‘unsafe’ paper, which had been omitted from the KCL Internal Review Report due to administrative error, was:

Grossarth-Maticek, R., H. J. Eysenck and H. Vetter (1988). “Antismoking attitudes and general prejudice: an empirical study.” Percept Mot Skills 66(3): 927-931.

Bogus Rejection by BMC Psychology

The BMC series of journals, which includes BMC Psychology, is a part of Springer Nature, one of the Springer group of companies that also published HansEysenck’s book on smoking, personality and stress.

On Friday 11 October, 2019, 18.17 BST, I received a rejection notice from BMC Psychology for a paper I had submitted two months previously. My paper is an integrative review of dissociative responses following child abuse and their role in subjective paranormal experience.

The rejection notice states:

“I have assessed your manuscript and regret to inform you that it cannot be considered for peer-review. Please find my comments at the end of this email.”

The reason for the rejection is that:

“Unfortunately your manuscript is out of scope for this journal.”

This reason is patently untrue. The contents of BMC Psychology includes 58 articles related to child abuse, 13 on dissociation, and 4 on depersonalisation. One article published on 10 July 2019 in BMC Psychology is specifically concerned with the taxonomy of clinical psychological problems including paranormal experiences:

Bakker, G. M. (2019). A new conception and subsequent taxonomy of clinical psychological problems. BMC Psychology7(1), 46.

The reason given for rejection by BMC, therefore, is bogus.

My Legitimate Scientific Research Rejected Across 65 BMC-series Journals

As if receiving a bogus rejection is not bad enough, the letter also stated:

Please note that this decision applies across the BMC-series journals (”

Thus my research work has been prohibited from further consideration by any of the BMC-series of 65 journals across 16 different fields of science and medicine listed below.

This is an excessively draconian measure that goes beyond any principle of fairness.

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Bearing in mind that I have already published five times in Nature, Springer Nature’s  flagship journal, maybe there is more to this than meets the eye. It seems highly unlikely that an editor of one BMC journal is authorized to speak on behalf of all other BMC editors. Unless, of course, there has been an instruction from higher up. This issue needs to be resolved.

Trying to resolve the issue is proving difficult. The links on the BMC website to the Managing Editors of the BMC Series are dead. I have informed one of the section editors to see if he can cast any light on this matter. I thought the best thing to do would be to go directly to the editor. The Editor of BMC Psychology is a Dr Darren Byrne. At this point, the story goes full circle.

Dr Byrne completed his postgraduate training one year ago at the  Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, Eysenck’s alma mater.

Obviously, a complete coincidence.

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The British Psychological Society Washes Its Hands of Hans J Eysenck’s Fraud

The Eysenck story continues…

Earlier today,  I posted about King’s College London’s May 2019 Enquiry into H J Eysenck.

It is a grimy affair with brushes busily sweeping dirt under the well-trodden carpet of historical fraud at London University.  The latest case is one of the largest in the history of science:

King’s College London Enquiry Into Hans J Eysenck Fails to Address All of His Bogus Publications.

Open Letter

Here I describe  what happened when I alerted the British Psychological Society to the issue.  To recap, nearly one year ago I sent an advance copy of an Open letter to Mr Sarb Bajwa, Chief Executive of the British Psychological Society.

I received no reply.

In February we published a penetrating review by Anthony Pelosi concerning Eysenck’s bogus publications, connections with Big Tobacco, and eye-watering claims that psychotherapy could prolong the life of cancer and cardiac patients.  An editorial containing the Open Letters to KCL and the BPS was published in the same issue of the Journal of Health Psychology (Marks, 2019).

I still received no reply.

In August, Andrew Coleman,  Chris McVittie, Richard Smith and I tried another approach. We sent a letter for publication in the Psychologist, the magazine for members of the BPS. Under the title: A role in auditing Hans Eysenck? it was published in the September issue. Our letter began:

A recent paper (Pelosi, 2019) has provided prima-facie evidence, some of it from documents disclosed in the process of litigation against tobacco companies, that Hans J. Eysenck was implicated in what is described as ‘one of the worst scandals in the history of science’ (p.434). We believe that it is now incumbent on the British Psychological Society to conduct an audit of his scientific publications.

The British Psychological Society Finally Responds

After ignoring the Eysenck scandal for almost a year, the Society finally responded. The Society’s response was dismal:

The BPS is the professional body for psychology and psychologists in the UK, with a leading role in promoting the advancement of psychology and setting a high standard of professional education and knowledge.

Our code of ethics and conduct and code of human research ethics provide the framework for ethical decision making for our members. They make clear that research should be designed, reviewed and conducted in a way that ensures its quality, integrity and contribution to the development of knowledge and understanding.

However, the conduct of research lies with the academic institution which oversees the work carried out by its academics and we welcomed the investigation into this research carried out by King’s College, London.

The buck had been well and truly passed.

Peter Morris Responds

Our Psychologist letter triggered Professor Peter E Morris, a long-standing member of the Society, to explain why an audit on Eysenck would not be a good idea (Judging Hans Eysenck). Interestingly, he compares the scandal to the similar one that arose with Sir Cyril Burt: “as with Burt, there will be many psychologists who have strong opinions, both positive and negative, about Eysenck. Judging him would open up many positive and negative evaluations of him and the Society. I do, however, strongly support historical evaluations of his work that do not require the Society to pass judgement on the dead.”

The Burt Scandal is the stuff of legends. Coincidentally, Burt was H J Eysenck’s PhD supervisor.  A master and his apprentice.




King’s College London Enquiry Into Hans J Eysenck Fails to Address All of His Bogus Publications


Earlier this year we exposed the largest fraud ever perpetrated in the history of psychology (Marks, 2019Pelosi, 2019). This audacious fraud was carried out by the UK’s most published and best known psychologist, the late Professor Hans J Eysenck (1916-1997), by all accounts, a maverick and controversial figure.

We called for an enquiry (Marks, 2019).  H J Eysenck’s ex-employer, the Institute of Psychiatry in Denmark Hill, is now a part of King’s College London (KCL).

The enquiry at KCL concluded that 25 publications were unsafe. However, the enquiry report remains unpublished and incomplete.  

KCL reviewed publications written by Eysenck with his collaborator Ronald Grossarth-Maticek. The enquiry failed to investigate 36 other bogus items based on exactly the same data collected by Eysenck’s collaborator.

The KCL enquiry must be properly completed to include the entire set of 61 bogus publications.

The Eysenck affair makes a strong case for a National Research Integrity Ombudsperson.


The Journal of Health Psychology published a penetrating review  by Anthony Pelosi (2019) into Hans J Eysenck’s research on fatal illnesses and personality.

Eysenck’s research had been conducted with a German sociologist, Ronald Grossarth-Maticek, while claiming affiliation to Eysenck’s employer, the Institute of Psychiatry, now part of King’s College London (KCL). In a survey of Eysenck’s publications about fatal illness and personality, I identified  a provisional total of 61 that exceeded any reasonable boundary of scientific credibility. Based on Pelosi’s case and my review of these dubious publications, I called for an investigation by KCL into these publications (Marks, 2019).

On 3rd December 2018  I sent a pre-publication copy of Anthony Pelosi’s review and my editorial to the Principal of KCL, Professor Edward Byrne. On 13th December 2018,  I received a reply informing me that a considered response would follow a KCL review.


On 25th June 2019 I was informed that KCL had completed its enquiry to examine publications authored by Professor Hans Eysenck with Professor Ronald Grossarth-Maticek.  Professor Byrne said that KCL had contacted the University of Heidelberg where Professor Grossarth-Maticek is associated. Professor Byrne confirmed that the enquiry had found “a number of papers” to be questionable and that KCL would be writing to the editors of the relevant journals to inform them. I requested a copy of the enquiry report but heard nothing more until October 4th 2019  when I received the enquiry report dated ‘May 2019’.

The reason for the 4-month delay is unclear.


According to the enquiry report, the Principal had asked the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) to set up a committee to examine publications authored by Professor Hans Eysenck with Professor Ronald Grossarth-Maticek.

Why only the publications co-authored with Grossarth-Maticek? The reason for this limitation in the scope of the enquiry is not given.

The enquiry committee expressed its concerns about the Eysenck and Grossarth-Maticek papers in the following terms:

“The concerns are based on two issues. First, the validity of the datasets, in terms of recruitment of participants, administration of measures, reliability of outcome ascertainment, biases in data collection, absence of relevant covariates, and selection of cases analysed in each article. Second, the implausibility of the results presented, many of which show effect sizes virtually unknown in medical science. For example, the relative risk of dying of cancer for individuals with ‘cancer-prone’ personality compared with healthy  personality was over 100, while the risk of cancer mortality was reduced 80% by bibliotherapy. These findings are incompatible with modern clinical science and the understanding of disease processes.”


“The Committee shared the concerns made by the critics of this body of work. We have come to the conclusion that we consider the published results of studies that included the results of the analyses of data collected as part of the intervention or observational studies to be unsafe and that the editors of the journals should be informed of our decision. We have highlighted 26 papers (Appendix 1) which were published in 11 journals which are still in existence.”


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As noted, the KCL enquiry was based on the publications Eysenck co-authored with Ronald Grossarth-Maticek. Was this a manoeuvre designed to try and shift the blame away from Eysenck towards Grossarth-Maticek?

If so, it failed.

Any implication that Eysenck was a hapless victim of a dishonest act of data manipulation by Grossarth-Maticek is inconsistent with the evidence. After all, a large subset of 36 single-authored publications by the great man himself were  based, partly or entirely, on the same body of research data as the co-authored publications.

There are so many publications both with and without his collaborator. Many of these publications cover exactly the same material. Multiple publication of the same material is definitely not part of the normally recognised process of academic publication.

There is indubitable evidence in Eysenck’s multiple publications of the Questionable Writing Practice of self-plagiarism. 


The KCL enquiry failed to identify the full extent of Eysenck’s fraud. Its enquiry must be extended to examine the ‘safety’ of Eysenck’s 36 bogus single-authored publications.  It should also examine Eysenck’s multiple publications covering the same ground for evidence of self-plagiarism.

On no less than 20 co-authored papers. Grossarth-Maticek was falsely shown as being affiliated to the Institute of Psychiatry  This fraud can be laid squarely at Eysenck’s door. Grossarth-Maticek could not have asserted this false affiliation without the deliberate connivance of Eysenck.

Recent personal communications with Ronald Grossarth-Maticek indicate that Grossarth-Maticek does not have even a minimal command of English.  It can be reasonably assumed that Grossarth-Maticek was 100% reliant on Eysenck to produce the English language versions of the 25 unsafe papers.


In total, Eysenck was responsible for no less than 61 publications using the bogus data sets. This total body of 61 publications includes more than 40 peer-reviewed journal articles, 10 book chapters and two books, each in three editions.

The proper thing for editors and publishers is to retract all 61 publications.

To quote James Heathers: “Eysenck would eclipse Diederik Stapel (58) as the most retracted psychologist in history, a scarcely believable legacy for someone who was at one time the most cited psychologist on the planet” (Heathers, 2019).


There are strong reasons to doubt the capability of KCL and other academic institutions to properly and fully investigate academic misconduct because of the obvious conflict of interest. In a previous case when I brought a complaint of academic misconduct to KCL, the institution failed to follow its procedures for investigating the complaint. In the Eysenck case, it has investigated less than half of the publications pertaining to the complaint.

All of which leads one to conclude that there is an urgent need to establish a National Research Integrity Ombudsperson to investigate allegations of academic misconduct.

The need for an independent UK body to promote good governance, management and conduct of academic, scientific and medical research could never be stronger than in the present situation. The Eysenck affair requires the full attention of the institutions that govern scientific practice.

The only professional body for psychologists, the British Psychological Society, washed its hands of the problem by passing the entire responsibility to KCL.

This is not an issue about a single individual’s alleged misconduct, or a single institution, it is about the integrity of science. Without a genuine ability to assure governance, quality and integrity, science is a failure unto to itself, to reason and to ethics.

As James Heathers points out:

the question is, does anybody have the will to do anything about it?


Heathers, J. (2019). Do we have the will to do anything about it? James Heathers reflects on the Eysenck case.

Marks, D.F. (2019). The Hans Eysenck affair: Time to correct the scientific record. Journal of Health Psychology, 24, 4: 409-420.

Pelosi, A. (2019). Personality and fatal diseases: revisiting a scientific scandal. Journal of Health Psychology,  24, 4:  421-439.

[1] Only 25 papers were listed in Appendix 1.

A reset for Psychology as natural science

Homeostasis, the state of steady internal conditions, is a well-established principle in living systems. Here I discuss ‘Psychological Homeostasis’, a construct which gives rise to three ‘big ideas’: a new general theory of behaviour; an alternative theory of evolution; and unifying Psychology as part of natural science.

My aim is to persuade you that these ideas have legs. Psychology’s fragmentation and its separation from the natural sciences can – and must – be repaired. Here I offer one way to take this unification project forward.

We are all familiar with the thermostat on the wall that we use to regulate the room temperature. We are also familiar with a process inside the body called ‘physiological homoeostasis’ which controls variables such as our body temperature and fluid balance to keep them within pre-set limits (Cannon, 1929). What is new and less well established is the idea of a ‘Behavioural Thermostat’, a type of psychological homeostasis striving to control the equilibrium and stability of the external environment. Let’s call this concept ‘Homeostasis Type 2’ or ‘HT2’ for short.


I wish to argue that Psychological Homeostasis is every bit as important as its physiological counterpart. It is designed to keep everything in the surrounding environment ‘ticking over’, not too ‘hot’ and not too ‘cold’. HT2 is an innate process built to quietly keep everything ‘cushty’ (as Jamie Oliver might put it).

There are several popular idioms about this process: it is said that ‘we don’t like to rock the boat’, ‘cause waves’, ‘ruffle feathers’ or ‘upset the apple cart’. I want to suggest that the HT2 is so indispensably routine that most of us for most of the time simply aren’t aware of its existence. Just as fish don’t know they’re in water, we don’t know we’re in homeostasis. Yet – I wish to argue – all of our behaviour, thinking, and feelings are ultimately controlled by it.

If that sounds a little bit scary, it doesn’t need to be. Homeostasis isn’t a malevolent force, it’s doing good, making our lives easier. HT2 brings multiple forms of help and healing free at the point of delivery, like an in-built NHS. HT2 is one of those rare, ‘good-news’ stories. It’s all about preventing and fixing things before there is a breakdown. If we see an apple cart about to turn over, we stop it from happening. If we see one that’s already overturned, a situation in need of repair, then we set about repairing it. HT2 repairs and ‘resets’ on a routine basis, guiding our behaviour.

I explain why this is possible in my new book A General Theory of Behaviour (Marks, 2018). The General Theory consists of 20 principles and 80 auxiliary propositions that make predictions at individual, social and societal levels.

Admittedly there is ‘nothing new under the sun’, and the theory has links with other motivational theories, especially Conservation of Resources Theory (Hobfoll, 1989). Yet the construct of Psychological Homeostasis as an analogue of its physiological cousin has never been systematically developed. In 1848 German physicist Gustav Fechner used the term Lustprinzip. Fifty years later Sigmund Freud copied this idea with the ‘Pleasure Principle’, which has an almost exact equivalent in Cannon’s concept of homeostasis, which in turn has the goal of tension reduction for the sake of maintaining, or restoring, the inner equilibrium (Marks, 2018, p.40). The General Theory holds that striving for equilibrium is a primary motivation of behaviour, not only pleasure seeking or pain avoidance, as suggested by the Law of Effect.

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty – how exactly does Psychological Homeostasis work? Firstly, the theory proposes an internal director (a ‘Reset Equilibrium Function’ or ‘REF’) that strives to keep everything ‘cushty’. If, as Shakespeare viaJaques famously asserts, ‘All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players’, actors must each have an internal director. The REF-director guides each individual towards winning rewards and avoiding losses. Individuals can’t win Oscars but they can appear authentic, smooth and convincing to participants and onlookers. The goal of the REF is to strive for the best performance of the actor in balance with, and collaboration from, the other actors in the ‘drama’. By persuasion, recruitment and/or manipulation, gains are maximised and losses minimised in a zero-sum game.

The REF thus directs individual actions, prevents and fixes problems and eliminating barriers before any situation becomes uncontrollable. It helps to make the world livable and as comfortable as possible, an internal fixer and mixer. Wherever we go and whatever we are doing, the REF within us is striving to maintain good family and public relations, and a tolerable balance of safety and stability in our physical and social surroundings. If there are competing drives, conflicts, and inconsistencies pulling the flow of events ‘off balance’, our innate REF system guides us back inside our comfort zones.


The REF is triggered whenever a process moves beyond its set point or set range. As a general rule, the majority of people for the majority of time strive to calm and quieten disturbances of equilibrium rather than to exacerbate them.Of course, nobody has the power to win the battle for ‘calm’, ‘balance’ and ‘control’ on every occasion. Inconveniences, mistakes and an occasional calamity raise their ugly heads sooner or later. A measured response is necessary to restore equilibrium and there are certainly different styles and  ‘personalities’ influencing the best way to go about this. Potentially a single action can push a system out of its comfort zone requiring reset. When a process resets, a ‘domino-effect’ tends to occur when other interconnected processes require a reset also.

One drink too many might bring on a sleepless night and an early morning hangover causing a missed meeting and a ticking off from the boss. An angry outburst from one unhappy individual may provoke others and the boss might have to send round an email about the importance of punctuality. It’s all grist to the homeostasis mill. Yet we cannot live without homeostasis, and evolution itself would not have progressed so much in our favour.


At every level of existence, from the cell to the organism, from the individual to the population, and from the local ecosystem to the entire planet, homeostasis is a driving force towards stability, security and adaptation to change. One way in which homeostasis guides evolution is through niche construction (Lewontin, 1983). Like many other organisms, humans actively adapt the environment, not simply adapt to it. Niche construction alters ecological processes, modifies natural selection and contributes to inheritance (Laland, 2017).  The sweep of niche construction is broad, incorporating many aspects of behaviour including ownership of goods and property, self-decoration and design, and the marking of identity.

The individual organism extends its ability to thrive in nature by using HT2 to build niches. Humans are prolific cultivators of food, clothing, construction materials, fuel, alcohol, drugs, and ornaments. All are forms of self-extension designed to create zones of safety and identity. Classic examples in nature are the dam-building of beavers and the propogation of fruit by bowerbirds for use in sexual display. It has been suggested that male spotted bowerbirds Ptilonorhynchus (Chlamyderamaculata use the fruit of Solanum ellipticum not as food but as components of sexual display. Madden et al. (2012) observed that males indirectly cultivate plants bearing these fruit – the first known cultivation of a non-food item by a non-human species.

Niche construction promotes identity, security and survival, which in some cases (e.g. houses) can be passed to the next generation. I believe that niche construction is homeostatically-driven. To quote J. Scott Turner’s book Purpose and Desire: What Makes Something “Alive” and Why Modern Darwinism Has Failed to Explain It: ‘Niche construction …[allows] organisms to manipulate environments to suit themselves, essentially constructing their own ecological niches, and so, in some sense controlling the selective milieus they inhabit.’

We humans are prolific niche constructors. Tools, weapons, fire, domestication of animals, language, money, goods, agriculture, science, technology, engineering, medicine, culture, music, literature, the Internet and social media all enhance safety, identity and control. By constructing inhabitable zones of safety, humans have learned to survive in extreme environments such as the polar regions, outer space, on the surface of the moon and there are plans to settle on the planet Mars. When a human habitat is extended with possessions, the possessions themselves become part of personal identity. William James (1890) wrote: ‘a man’s Self is the sum total of all that he CAN call his, not only his body and his psychic powers, but his clothes and his house, his wife and children, his ancestors and friends, his reputation and works, his lands, and yacht and bank-account. All these things give him the same emotions’.

Other examples of niche construction as identity-marking include clothing and the beauty industry, and the motor car. Enzo Ferrari, once said: ‘The fact is I don’t drive just to get from A to B. I enjoy feeling the car’s reactions, becoming part of it.’ ‘Becoming part of it’, whether driving to maximise safety or to gain the adrenaline rush of speeding, the feeling of oneness is palpable. Driver and car are as one (Marks, 2018, pp. 66-67).

In producing safety, security and thriving, HT2 and niche construction co-direct adaptive evolution. They provide a second pathway for an adaptive fit between organisms and the environment. I agree with Turner who suggests: ‘homeostasis does not derive from natural selection; it is homeostasis that drives selection.’ And note the down-side to niche construction – niche destruction by climate change. Psychological perspectives on this, ‘the largest social dilemma in history’, are reviewed in a recent article in The Psychologist (Brick and van der Linden, 2018).


Homeostasis is a reset and repair agent, a DIY specialist. The Psychology Discipline itself is one object in need of an urgent DIY makeover. The General Theory springs into action to bring unity to Psychology as part of natural science.

Psychology claims to be a science, yet there are so many sub-regions, mini-theories and models, and no generally accepted paradigm. Our professional society for psychologists in the UK, the British Psychological Society, is emblematic of the discipline. The extreme diversity of the Society with dozens of divisions, special groups and sections, is an undoubted strength. Yet it is also reveals weakness. Where is the collective vision of our science? We do not have one. We are lacking a backbone.

Commentators suggest that a major redesign of the discipline is long overdue. The majority of psychologists agree that integration is necessary. Fragmentation has been a longstanding and difficult problem. Over more than a century, fragmentation has been called a ‘crisis’. The extreme plight of the discipline has been the subject of a penetrating book, Psychology in Crisis by Brian Hughes, who wrote about it recently in this very magazine.

So I humbly offer my General Theory as a unifying force, both for psychology research currently out there and to drive future study. I argue that the theory can make falsifiable predictions on a vast range of topics, encompassing the whole of Psychology… learning, striving, action, making friends, falling in love, self-control and addiction, surfing the internet, work, sleep and so much more.

I already see published research which chimes with my thinking on the General Theory:

–       Natural field experiment in a public car park found that subjects for whom other drivers stopped were more than twice as likely to extend a similar act to a third party, indicating indirect reciprocity (Mujcic & Leibbrandt, 2018). This mirrors my prediction that we strive to achieve goals while maximising cohesion and cooperation with kith and kin and, at the same time, striving to take away or minimise the suffering and pain of others.

–       Social observational studies find that police officers frequently employ de-escalation tactics, including the ‘respect’ tactic, the ‘human’ tactic and the ‘honest’ tactic, which are associated with a calming of a citizen’s demeanour (Todak & James, 2018). This mirrors my prediction that the majority of people for the majority of time strive to calm and quieten local disturbances of equilibrium rather than to exacerbate them.

–       Studies suggest that the forebrain provides a common central mechanism for both physiological and psychological homeostasis (Edlow et al., 2016). This suggests that, as I propose in my book, homeostasis of both Types I and II is controlled by a single executive controller in the forebrain.


I have given only the briefest taste of what the theory holds. I know these are bold, wide-ranging claims. If you disagree with what I have set out, challenge me. If you find aspects you agree with, join me on this journey. The next steps require investigations aimed at falsification of the General Theory. However long it takes, our broken discipline needs to be put together into one beautiful whole. It needs a backbone.


Brick, C. and van der Linden, S. (2018). Yawning at the apocalypse. The Psychologist, September, 30-35.

Cannon, W. B. (1929). Organization for physiological homeostasis. Physiological reviews9(3), 399-431.

Edlow, B. L., McNab, J.A., Witzel, T. and Kinney, H.C. (2016). The structural connectome of the human central homeostatic network. Brain Connectivity, 6(3), 187–200.

Marks, David F.. A General Theory of Behaviour (SAGE Swifts) (p. 23). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.

Hobfoll, S.E. (1989). Conservation of resources: A new attempt at conceptualizing stress. American Psychologist, 44(3), 513–524.

Hughes, B.M. (2018). Psychology in crisis. London: Palgrave.

Hughes, B.M. (2018). Does psychology face and exaggeration crisis? The Psychologist, October, 8-10.

James, W. (1890). The Principles of Psychology. New York: Holt and Company. pp. 291–292.

Laland, K.N. (2017). Darwin’s unfinished symphony how culture made the human mind. Princeton, NJ: Printeton University Press.

Lewontin RC (1983). Gene, organism and environment. In: Bendall, D. S. (Ed.). Evolution from molecules to men. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Madden, J. R., Dingle, C., Isden, J., Sparfeld, J., Goldizen, A. W., & Endler, J. A. (2012). Male spotted bowerbirds propagate fruit for use in their sexual display. Current biology22(8), R264-R265.

Marks, D. F. (2018). A General Theory of Behaviour (SAGE Swifts) SAGE Publications.

Mujcic, R., & Leibbrandt, A. (2018). Indirect reciprocity and prosocial behaviour: Evidence from a natural field experiment. The Economic Journal128(611), 1683-1699.

Todak, N. & James, L. (2018). A Systematic Social Observation Study of Police De-Escalation Tactics. Police Quarterly, 1098611118784007.

Turner, J.S. (2017). Purpose and Desire: What Makes Something “Alive” and Why Modern Darwinism Has Failed to Explain It. New York: HarperCollins.

61 publications by Hans J Eysenck and R Grossarth-Maticek that require correction or retraction


HJE’s affiliation was the Institute of Psychiatry, University of London;

The affiliation of RG-M at that time is uncertain.

1)CONFERENCE PAPER: Grossarth-Maticek, R., Eysenck, H. J., Vetter, H., & Schmidt, P. (1985). Results of the Heidelberg prospective psychosomatic intervention study. International Conference on Health Psychology, Tilburg University.


Both authors give the Institute of Psychiatry, University of London, as their affiliation

2) *Grossarth-Maticek, R., Eysenck, H. J., & Vetter, H. (1988). Personality type, smoking habit and their interaction as predictors of cancer and coronary heart disease. Personality and Individual Differences, 9(2), 479 -495.

3) Grossarth-Maticek, R., Eysenck, H. J., & Vetter, H. (1988). Antismoking attitudes and general prejudice: An empirical study. Perceptual and motor skills, 66(3), 927-931.

4) Grossarth-Maticek, R., & Eysenck, H. J. (1989). Length of survival and lymphocyte percentage in women with mammary cancer as a function of psychotherapy. Psychological Reports, 65(1), 315-321.

5) *Grossarth-Maticek, R., Eysenck, H. J., & Vetter, H. (1989). The causes and cures of prejudice: An empirical study of the frustration-aggression hypothesis. Personality and Individual Differences, 10(5), 547-558.

6) Eysenck, H. J., & Grossarth-Maticek, R. (1989). Prevention of cancer and coronary heart disease and the reduction in the cost of the National Health Service. The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies, 14(1), 25.

7) Grossarth-Maticek, R., & Eysenck, H. J. (1990). Prophylactic effects of psychoanalysis on cancer-prone and coronary heart disease-prone probands, as compared with control groups and behaviour therapy groups. Journal of behavior therapy and experimental psychiatry, 21(2), 91-99.

8) Grossarth-Maticek, R., & Eysenck, H. J. (1990). Personality, stress and disease: description and validation of a new inventory. Psychological Reports, 66(2), 355-373.

9)  Grossarth-Maticek, R., Eysenck, H. J., Uhlenbruck, G., Rieder, H., Vetter, H., Freesemann, C., … & Liesen, H. (1990). Sport activity and personality as elements in preventing cancer and coronary heart disease. Perceptual and motor skills, 71(1), 199-209.

10) Grossarth-Maticek, R., Eysenck, H. J., Rieder, H., & Rakic, L. (1990). Psychological factors as determinants of success in football and boxing: The effects of behaviour therapy. International Journal of Sport Psychology. 21(3), 237-255.

11) Grossarth-Maticek, R., & Eysenck, H. J. (1990). Personality, smoking, and alcohol as synergistic risk factors for cancer of the mouth and pharynx. Psychological reports, 67(3), 1024-1026.

12) Grossarth-Maticek, R., & Eysenck, H. J. (1990). Coffee-drinking and personality as factors in the genesis of cancer and coronary heart disease. Neuropsychobiology, 23(3), 153-159.

13) Grossarth-Maticek, R., & Eysenck, H. J. (1989). Is media information that smoking causes illness a self-fulfilling prophecy?. Psychological reports, 65(1), 177-178.

14)BOOK CHAPTER: Grossarth-Maticek, R., & Eysenck, H. J. (1991). Personality and Cancer: Prediction and Prophylaxis. In Anticarcinogenesis and Radiation Protection 2 (pp. 451-458). Springer, Boston, MA.

15) *Grossarth-Maticek, R., & Eysenck, H. J. (1991). Creative novation behaviour therapy as a prophylactic treatment for cancer and coronary heart disease: Part I—Description of treatment. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 29(1), 1-16.

16) *Eysenck, H. J., & Grossarth-Maticek, R. (1991). Creative novation behaviour therapy as a prophylactic treatment for cancer and coronary heart disease: Part II—Effects of treatment. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 29(1), 17-31.

17) Eysenck, H. J., Grossarth-Maticek, R., & Everitt, B. (1991). Personality, stress, smoking, and genetic predisposition as synergistic risk factors for cancer and coronary heart disease. Integrative Physiological and Behavioral Science, 26(4), 309-322.

18) Grossarth-Maticek, R., & Eysenck, H. J. (1991). Personality, stress, and motivational factors in drinking as determinants of risk for cancer and coronary heart disease. Psychological reports, 69(3), 1027-1043.

19) *Grossarth-Maticek, R., Eysenck, H., Gallasch, G., Vetter, H., & Frentzel-Beyme, R. (1991). Changes in degree of sclerosis as a function of prophylactic treatment in cancer-prone and CHD-prone probands. Behaviour research and therapy, 29(4), 343-351.

20) Grossarth-Maticek, R., & Eysenck, H. J. (1991). Coca-Cola, cancers, and coronaries: personality and stress as mediating factors. Psychological reports, 68(3_suppl), 1083-1087.


Authors’ affiliations given as “Institute of Psychiatry University of London UK and University Clinical Center Belgrade Yugoslavia”

21)BOOK CHAPTER: Grossarth-Maticek, R., Eysenck, H. J., & Rakic, L. (1991). Central nervous system and cancer. In Anticarcinogenesis and Radiation Protection 2 (pp. 429-435). Springer, Boston, MA.

1993: Corrigendum

*CORRIGENDUM H. J. EYSENCK and R. GROSSARTH-MATICEK (1991). Creative novation behaviour therapy as a prophylactic treatment for cancer and coronary heart disease. Parts I and II. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 29, 1-31.

“In the above articles Dr Grossarth-Maticek’s affiliation is cited as The Institute of Psychiatry, Department of Psychology, University of London, De Crespigny Park, Denmark Hill, London. Dr Grossarth-Maticek is not, and never has been, a member of staff at the Institute of Psychiatry.”


Grossarth-Maticek’s affiliation given as “University for Peace, United Nations England” or “ECPD Institute for Preventive Medicine, University for Peace (United Nations)” or “Institute for Preventive Medicine European Centre for Peace & Development (University for Peace, established by the United Nations) Heidelberg Germany”.

22) Grossarth-Maticek, R., Eysenck, H. J., & Boyle, G. J. (1994). An empirical study of the diathesis-stress theory of disease. International Journal of Stress Management, 1(1), 3-18.

23)BOOK CHAPTER: Grossarth-Maticek, R., Eysenck, H. J., & Boyle, G. J. (1994). An empirical study of the diathesis-stress theory of disease. Reprinted in: Boyle, G. J., & Saklofske, D. H. (2004). Psychology of individual differences. Volume 4.

24) *Grossarth-Maticek, R., & Eysenck, H. J. (1995). Self-regulation and mortality from cancer, coronary heart disease, and other causes: A prospective study. Personality and individual differences, 19(6), 781-795.

25) Grossarth-Maticek, R., Eysenck, H. J., & Boyle, G. J. (1995). Alcohol consumption and health: Synergistic interaction with personality. Psychological reports, 77(2), 675-687.

[September 4, 1997: H J E deceased]

26) *Grossarth-Maticek, R., Eysenck, H. J., Pfeifer, A., Schmidt, P., & Koppel, G. (1997, December). The specific action of different personality risk factors on cancer of the breast, cervix, corpus uteri and other types of cancer: a prospective investigation. Personality and individual differences, 23(6), 949-960.

27)  Grossarth-Maticek, R., Eysenck, H. J., Boyle, G. J., Heeb, J., Costa, S. D., & Diel, I. J. (2000). Interaction of psychosocial and physical risk factors in the causation of mammary cancer, and its prevention through psychological methods of treatment. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 56(1), 33-50.


28) Eysenck, H.J. (1987). Personality as a predictor of cancer and cardiovascular disease, and the application of behaviour therapy in prophylaxis. European Journal of Psychiatry, 1,29-41.

29) Eysenck, H. J. (1988). Personality, stress and cancer: prediction and prophylaxis. British Journal of Medical Psychology61(1), 57-75.

30) Eysenck, H. J. (1988). Behaviour therapy as an aid in the prevention of cancer and coronary heart disease. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy17(3-4), 171-188.

31) *Eysenck, H. J. (1988). The respective importance of personality, cigarette smoking and interaction effects for the genesis of cancer and coronary heart disease. Personality and Individual Differences9(2), 453-464.

32) Eysenck, H.J. (1988). Personality as a predictor of cancer and cardiovascular disease, and the application of behaviour therapy in prophylaxis. British Journal of Clinical & Social Psychiatry, 6, 4-12.

33) *Eysenck, H. J. (1990). The causes and cures of prejudice: A reply. Personality and IIndividual Differences, 11(6), 649.

34) Eysenck, H. J. (1990). The prediction of death from cancer by means of personality/stress questionnaire: too good to be true?. Perceptual and motor skills71(1), 216-218.

35) Eysenck, H. J. (1990). Clinical Psychology in Europe and in the United States: Development and Future. European perspectives in psychology2, 3-17.

36) Eysenck, H. J. (1991). Personality, stress, and disease: An interactionist perspective. Psychological Inquiry2(3), 221-232.

37) Eysenck, H. J. (1991). Personality as a risk factor in coronary heart disease. European Journal of Personality5(2), 81-92.

38) Eysenck, H. J. (1991). Were we really wrong?. American journal of epidemiology133(5), 429-36.

39) Eysenck, H. J. (1991). Neuroticism, anxiety, and depression. Psychological Inquiry2(1), 75-76.

40)BOOK: Eysenck, H.J. (1991). Smoking, personality and stress: psychosocial factors in theprevention of cancer and coronary heart disease. Springer-Verlag Berlin.

41)BOOK: Eysenck, H.J. (2011). Smoking, personality and stress: psychosocial factors in theprevention of cancer and coronary heart disease. Soft cover edition. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.

42)BOOK: Eysenck, H.J. (2012). Smoking, personality and stress: psychosocial factors in theprevention of cancer and coronary heart disease. Kindle edition. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.

43) Eysenck, H.J. (1991). Reply to criticisms of the Grossarth-Maticek studies. Psychological Inquiry, 2, 297-323.

44) Eysenck, H. J. (1991). Behavioral psychotherapy. In Clinical Psychology (pp. 417-442). Springer, Boston, MA.

45) Eysenck, H. J. (1992). Psychosocial factors, cancer, and ischaemic heart disease. British Medical Journal305(6851), 457.

46) Eysenck, H. J. (1993). Prediction of cancer and coronary heart disease mortality by means of a personality inventory: results of a 15-year follow-up study. Psychological Reports72(2), 499-516.

47)BOOK CHAPTER: Eysenck, H. J. (1993). Forty Years On. In Handbook of effective psychotherapy (pp. 3-20). Springer, Boston, MA.

48) Eysenck, H. J. (1993). Personality, stress and disease: The Grossarth-Maticek contribution. Zeitachrift fur Geoundheitpsychologie1, 204-211.

49) Eysenck, H. J. (1994). Neuroticism and the illusion of mental health. American Psychologist, 49(11), 971-972

50)BOOK CHAPTER: Eysenck, H. J. (1994). Cancer, personality and stress: prediction and prevention. Advances in Behaviour Research and Therapy16(3), 167-215.

51) Eysenck, H. J. (1995). The causal role of stress and personality in the etiology of cancer and coronary heart disease. Stress and Emotion15, 3-12.

52) Eysenck, H. J. (1995). Does smoking really kill anybody?. Psychological reports,77(3_suppl), 1243-1246.

53) Eysenck, H. J. (1995). Editorial Mental health and physical disease: A new paradigm. Journal of Mental Health4(3), 221-226.

54)BOOK CHAPTER: Eysenck, H. J. (1996). Psychosocial Stress and Cancer. In Bittles A.H., Parsons P.A. (eds) Stress. Studies in Biology, Economy and Society. Palgrave Macmillan, London

55)BOOK CHAPTER: Eysenck, H. (1996). Personality and cancer. Handbook of stress, medicine, and health10, 193-215.

56)BOOK CHAPTER: Eysenck, H. J. (1991). In search of coronary-prone behavior: Beyond type A: Aron W. Siegman and Theodore M. Dembroski (Eds), Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ (1989).

57)BOOK CHAPTER: Eysenck, H.J. (2000). Personality as a risk factor in cancer and coronary heart disease. In Stress and health: research and clinical applications (ed. D T. Kenny and J.G. Carlson), pp. 291-318. Harwood, Amsterdam.

58)BOOK CHAPTER: Eysenck, H. J. (2000). Coronary Artery Disease and Essential Hypertension in Relation to Personality Stress Questionnaire: Validation in India. Personality Across Cultures: Recent Developments and Debates, 250.

59)BOOK: Eysenck, H. J. (1990). Rebel with a cause : the autobiography of Hans Eysenck. London: W.H. Allen.

60)BOOK: Eysenck, H. J. (1997). Rebel with a cause : the autobiography of Hans Eysenck (2ndedition)Revised and Expanded, January 30th 1997. London and New York: Routledge (first published 1990).

61)BOOK: Eysenck, H. J. (2017). Rebel with a cause : the autobiography of Hans Eysenck. — Rev. and expanded. Kindle Edition. London and New York: Routledge (first published 1997).

Open letter to Mr Sarb Bajwa, Chief Executive of the British Psychological Society

I am writing about a serious matter concerning the research integrity of a person who one can presume was a member of the British Psychological Society. In the interests of openness and transparency, this is an Open Letter. If left unresolved this is a matter that can be expected to produce potential harm to patients, to biomedicine and science, to your institution, to its members and students. Although Professor Hans Eysenck died in 1997, the issue of alleged falsified science committed by the late Professor remains current to the present day.

To give a few examples, the 2017 edition of Eysenck’s autobiography published by Springer, in relation to the causal link between smoking and cancer, states, ‘On a purely statistical basis the causal efficacy of smoking – if this can be deduced at all from a simple correlation – is very much less than that of psychosocial factors; about one-sixth in fact’ (Eysenck, 2017Rebel with a Cause. Kindle Locations 3759–3761). Is the claim that psychosocial factors are six times more important than smoking something that the British Psychological Society is content to endorse or is it a claim that the BPS would like to see corrected? Or consider where Eysenck describes the effectiveness of psychotherapy in preventing cancer: ‘The total number of deaths in the control group was 83 per cent, in the placebo group 81 per cent, and in the therapy group 32 per cent, again demonstrating the efficacy of the method in preventing death from cancer and coronary heart disease’ (Eysenck, 2017, Kindle Location 3804–3806). Or the section where Eysenck claims that ‘there is some evidence that behaviour therapy may be useful in prolonging life, as well as in preventing disease’ (Eysenck, 2017, Kindle Locations 3821–3822).

I hope that the Society will add its voice to those who are requesting that the relevant publishers and journals should correct or retract Eysenck’s publications wherever they can be shown to contain questionable data-sets or claims that are known to be false.

The case is fully documented in Dr. Anthony Pelosi’s peer-reviewed article: ‘Personality and fatal diseases: revisiting a scientific scandal’. As the Editor responsible for the peer review and publication of Dr. Pelosi’s article, I have every confidence that Dr. Pelosi’s evidence and conclusions are reliable and true. In light of the policies and statutes of the British Psychological Society concerning research integrity I bring this case to your attention for investigation. A full and thorough investigation would be good for Psychology, for the research integrity of the BPS as a professional society and for the welfare of patients and the general public.

I look forward to your response.

Kind regards,

David F Marks BSc PhD CPsychol FBPsS
Editor, Journal of Health Psychology

Open letter to Professor Edward Byrne, AC FTSE FRACP FRCPE FRCP, President and Principal of King’s College London

Dear Professor Byrne,

I am writing about a serious matter concerning the research integrity of a late employee of your institution. In the interests of openness and transparency, this is an Open Letter. If left unresolved this is a matter that can be expected to produce potential harm to patients, to biomedicine and science, to your institution, to its staff and students. Although Professor Hans Eysenck died in 1997, the issue of alleged falsified science committed by the late Professor remains current to the present day.

To give a few examples, the 2017 edition of Eysenck’s autobiography published by Springer, in relation to the causal link between smoking and cancer, states, ‘On a purely statistical basis the causal efficacy of smoking – if this can be deduced at all from a simple correlation – is very much less than that of psychosocial factors; about one-sixth in fact’ (Eysenck, 2017Rebel with a Cause. Kindle Locations 3759–3761). Is the claim that psychosocial factors are six times more important than smoking something that King’s College London is content to endorse or is it a claim that KCL would like to see corrected? Or consider where Eysenck describes the effectiveness of psychotherapy in preventing cancer: ‘The total number of deaths in the control group was 83 per cent, in the placebo group 81 per cent, and in the therapy group 32 per cent, again demonstrating the efficacy of the method in preventing death from cancer and coronary heart disease’ (Eysenck, 2017, Kindle Location 3804–3806). Or the section where Eysenck claims that ‘there is some evidence that behaviour therapy may be useful in prolonging life, as well as in preventing disease’ (Eysenck, 2017: Kindle Locations 3821–3822).

I hope that King’s College London will add its voice to those who are requesting that the relevant publishers and journals should correct or retract Eysenck’s publications wherever they can be shown to contain questionable data-sets or claims that are known to be false.

A complete dossier of information is published herein and so I can be brief. It is recorded on the King’s College London website that ‘King’s has adopted the UKRIO Code of Practice for Research’. In line with the COPE guidelines I am referring this matter to you as the President of the relevant academic institution. I bring to your attention the research programme led by the late Professor Hans J Eysenck at the Institute of Psychiatry over a 40-year period. The evidence reviewed in the attached documentation suggests the late Professor’s research involved systematic breaches of conduct by himself and his collaborator, R Grossarth-Maticek. The joint publications of immediate concern are from the period 1985 to 2000 when Professor Eysenck was employed at the Institute of Psychiatry, now administratively a part of KCL. During the period 1985–1990, there are at least 27 publications authored by Eysenck and Grossarth-Maticek, 19 of which cite the Institute of Psychiatry as Grossarth-Maticek’s only affiliation (see Supplementary file).

The case to be answered is fully documented in Dr. Anthony Pelosi’s peer-reviewed article: ‘Personality and fatal diseases: revisiting a scientific scandal’. As the Editor responsible for the peer review and publication of Dr. Pelosi’s article, I have every confidence that Dr. Pelosi’s evidence and conclusions are reliable and true. In light of the policies and statutes of King’s College London concerning research integrity I bring this case to your attention for investigation. A full and thorough investigation would be good for science, for the research integrity of your esteemed institution and for the welfare of patients and the general public.

I look forward to your response.

Kind regards,

David F Marks BSc PhD CPsychol FBPsS
Editor, Journal of Health Psychology

Professor Byrne replied:

“Research integrity is of the highest priority at King’s and we will deliver a considered response following our review.”

That considered response is currently awaited.

To be continued…

Personality and fatal diseases: Revisiting a scientific scandal

During the 1980s and 1990s, Hans J Eysenck conducted a programme of research into the causes, prevention and treatment of fatal diseases in collaboration with one of his protégés, Ronald Grossarth-Maticek. This led to what must be the most astonishing series of findings ever published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature with effect sizes that have never otherwise been encounterered in biomedical research. This article outlines just some of these reported findings and signposts readers to extremely serious scientific and ethical criticisms that were published almost three decades ago. Confidential internal documents that have become available as a result of litigation against tobacco companies provide additional insights into this work. It is suggested that this research programme has led to one of the worst scientific scandals of all time. A call is made for a long overdue formal inquiry.

Read paper at:

The Hans Eysenck Affair: Time to Correct the Scientific Record


The Journal of Health Psychology publishes here Dr Anthony Pelosi’s analysis of questionable science by one of the world’s best known psychologists, the late Professor Hans J Eysenck. The provenance of a huge body of data produced by Eysenck and Ronald Grossarth-Maticek is highly controversial. In Open Letters to King’s College London and the British Psychological Society this Editor is requesting a thorough investigation of the facts together with retraction or correction of 61 publications. Academic institutions have a conflict of interest concerning allegations of misconduct, which is why I believe that the only way forward is to have a National Research Integrity Ombudsperson to investigate allegations.

Related posts are here and here. 



Video Introduction to A General Theory of Behaviour

Video about Psychological Homeostasis

Scientific Fraud at London University

The University of London (UL) is a complex, federal institution including University College London (UCL) the LSE, King’s College London and the London Business School. The University is the world’s oldest provider of academic awards through distance and flexible learning, dating back to 1858. The UL website proudly announces that it: “has been shortlisted for the International Impact Award at the 2018 Times Higher Education Awards, known as the ‘Oscars’ for higher education.

The academic context of an institution of the size and complexity of the UL is one of intense external and internal competition. These colleges compete fiercely for resources on a national and international stage. Many of them do exceedingly well. They are obsessed by their positions in various public league tables.  For example, the Times Higher Education (2018) World University Rankings for 2019 place Imperial College, UCL, LSE and King’s at 9th, 14th, 26th and 38th places respectively in a table of 1250 universities. These rankings matter and the only game in town is to move up the table. Oxford and Cambridge are in first and second place, with Stanford, MIT, CalTech and the Ivy League universities not far behind.

Within UL itself, there is intense rivalry between the member colleges,  the Medical Schools, the Schools and departments within those colleges, research groups and units within departments, and finally, between individual academics. The  white heat of competition needs to be directly observed or experienced to be believed. Academics at every level are under huge and intense pressure to obtain research funding and to publish peer-reviewed papers in high-impact journals to raise the perceived status of their schools and departments, and to secure funding in the form of research grants and to do all of these things as quickly as possible. As a consequence, simply to stay in the race, each and every method that produces the most outstanding results will be tested and tried. Unfortunately, from time to time, this inevitably means that academics resort to fraudulent practices.

This always does harm; it harms patients, biomedicine and science.  It also harms the reputations of the individuals concerned and their institutions. For this reason, information about scientific misconduct seldom finds its way into public arenas, yet it is a notable part of ‘behind the scenes’ academic history. In “Scientific misconduct and the myth of self-correction in science”, Stroebe, Postmes and Spears (2012) discuss 40 cases of fraud that occurred between 1974 and 2012. The majority occurred in Biomedicine and the only two UK cases were at UL. Academic institutions prefer to keep scientific fraud committed by their employees behind closed doors. Then with the inevitable leaks, news of ‘scandals’ creates headlines in the mainstream media. This means that academic responses  to fraud are driven by scandals. To quote Richard Smith (2006): “They accumulate to a point where the scientific community can no longer ignore them and `something has to be done’. Usually this process is excruciatingly slow.”

There have been several examples of proven scientific misconduct involving fabrication and fraud at several esteemed colleges within London University. London University has been blighted with a high proportion of ‘celebrity’ fraud cases, a few of which are summarised below.



Sir Cyril Burt at University College London claimed a child’s intelligence is mainly inherited and social circumstances play only a minor role. Burt was a eugenicist and he fabricated data in a manner that suggested the genetic theories of intelligence were confirmed.   Burt’s research formed the basis of education policy from the 1920s until Burt died in 1971. Soon afterwards evidence of fraud began to seep out, as if from a leaky bucket.

Notable exposures were by Leon Kamin (1974) in his book, The science and politics of IQ and Oliver Gillie (1976, October 24) who claimed that “Crucial data was faked by eminent psychologist” in the Sunday Times 

Burt was alleged to have invented results, assistants and authors to fit his theory that intelligence has primarily a genetic basis.  It is widely accepted today that Burt was a fraudster although he still has defenders.



A fraudulent article in The Lancet falsely linked the MMR vaccine to autism. The publicity about this scared large numbers of parents.  Dr. Andrew J Wakefield and a team (1998) at the Royal Free Hospital and School of Medicine, UL,  falsified their findings. This resulted in a substantial drop in vaccinations causing unnecessary deaths among thousands of unprotected children (e.g., Braunstein, 2012; Deere, 2012). In spite of significant public and scientific concerns, the Wakefield paper was not retracted until February 2010,  12 years after the original publication.  The paper received 1330 citations in the 12-year period prior to retraction and 1260 citations since the retraction. The false evidence that MMR vaccine causes autism is widely cited to the present day, and the paper forms the backbone of an international anti-vaxxing campaign which Wakefield leads from Austin, Texas (Glenza, 2018).


Dr. Malcolm Pearce of St George’s Medical School, LU, claimed that a 29-year-old woman had given birth to a healthy baby after he had successfully relocated a five-week-old ectopic foetus into her womb (Pearce et al., 1994).  The report excited worldwide interest and hope to thousands of women who are prone to pregnancies that start outside the uterus and end in miscarriage. However, Dr Pearce’s patient records had been tampered with, colleagues knew nothing of this astonishing procedure, and the mother could not be tracked down. Pearce had falsified his evidence. The GMC ruled that fraud had happened and struck off his name from the register. His fraud actually ended two careers.


Turner (2018) describes a “a major research scandal, after an inquiry found that scientific papers were doctored over an eleven year period.” Professor David Latchman, Master of Birkbeck College and one of the country’s top geneticists, was accused of “recklessness” by allowing research fraud to take place at UCL’s Institute of Child Health. The report states that UCL launched a formal investigation after a whistleblower alleged fraud in dozens papers published by the Institute.

It is alleged that a panel of experts  found that two scientists, Dr Anastasis Stephanou and Dr Tiziano Scarabelli, were guilty of research misconduct by manipulating images in seven published papers. Professor Latchman, a former Dean of the Institute, is cited as an author on all seven of the papers.  In a paper published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the panel said there was “clear evidence” of cloning, where parts of an image were copied and pasted elsewhere.


Another college in UL tainted by fraud is King’s College. According to the King’s College’s website ( the College was founded in 1829 as a university college “in the tradition of the Church of England”. The first King’s Professor to gain prominence as a fraudster was Professor Timothy Peters, professor of clinical biochemistry at King’s College School of Medicine and Dentistry, who was found guilty of serious professional misconduct in 2001. He was given a severe reprimand by the General Medical Council (GMC) for failing to take action over falsified research published by a junior doctor he was supervising (Dyer, 2001).

Professor Peters had been the research supervisor of Dr Anjan Banerjee, a junior doctor at King’s College Hospital between 1988 and 1991. Dr Banerjee, aged 41, was suspended from practice by the GMC for 12 months in December 2000 for publishing fraudulent research (BMJ 2000;321:1429). When the GMC suspended him, he had already been suspended from his job as consultant surgeon at the Royal Halifax Infirmary as a result of unconnected allegations concerning financial fraud, and he resigned after the GMC suspension. In spite of everything, Dr Banerjee was awarded fellowships at three Royal Colleges and also the MBE!  Nice work, if you can get it.


A recent publication in the Journal of Health Psychology, ‘Personality and fatal diseases: Revisiting a scientific scandal’ by Anthony Pelosi and editorial, ‘The Hans Eysenck affair: Time to correct the scientific record’ have triggered an investigation into 61 publications by the late Professor H J Eysenck and R Grossarth-Maticek.

Hans Eysenck did his doctorate at UCL under the supervision of Cyril Burt (see section above about the Burt Scandal).

My Open Letter to the President of King’s College, London, Professor David Byrne, draws attention to the 30-year old scandal concerning the dodgy data, impossible claims and dirty tobacco money that are the foundation of multiple dubious publications by Professor H J Eysenck and R Grossarth-Maticek’s.  An investigation by KCL of these events is long overdue and a report of a review by KCL is currently awaited. Watch this space…





<Prof Hans J Eysenck                                                                          Roland Grossarth-Maticek>


The Ahluwalia scandal is described in detail by Dr Geoff. It involved multiple acts of fraud. Jatinder Ahluwalia was obviously a very shrewd operator. In spite of getting found out on more than one occasion, Ahluwalia was able to gain employment in several prestigious institutions including Cambridge University,  Imperial College London, UCL and the University of East London.

These cases indicate the relative ease with which the academic fraudster can accomplish fame and fortune at some of the most prestigious institutions in the land.  The extremely poor record of the authorities at colleges in London University in discovering and calling out fraud is something to behold.

To be continued…

Personality, Heart Disease and Cancer: A Chequered History

Type A and B Personality

We discuss here the chequered history of the claims by Psychologists and others about the links between personality and illness, particularly heart disease and cancer. The research has been marred by dirty money and allegations of fraud.

Speculation about ‘Type A’ and ‘Type B’ personalities and coronary heart disease (CHD) has existed for at least 70 years. The distinction between the two personalities was introduced in the mid-1950s by the cardiologists Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman (1974) Type A behavior and your heart.  Their ideas can be traced to Franz Alexander one of the ‘fathers’ of psychosomatic medicine.

The Type A personality is described this: highly competitive and achievement oriented, not prepared to suffer fools gladly, always in a hurry and unable to bear delays and queues, hostile and aggressive, inclined to read, eat and drive very fast, and constantly thinking what to do next, even when supposedly listening to someone else. Type A was thought to be at greater risk of CHD,

The Type B personality is: relaxed, laid back, lethargic, even- tempered, amiable and philosophical about life, relatively slow in speech and action, and generally has enough time for everyone and everything.

The Type A personality is similar to Galen’s choleric temperament, and Type B with the phlegmatic.  It is well known that men are at greater risk of CHD than women.

‘Classic’ Studies

The key pioneering study of Type A personality and CHD was the Western Collaborative Group Study (WCGS).  Over 3,000 Californian men, aged from 39 to 59, were followed up initially over a period of eight-and-a-half years, and later extending to 22 years plus. At the eight-and-a-half-year follow-up, Type As were twice as likely compared with Type Bs to suffer from subsequent CHD. 7% developed some signs of CHD and two-thirds of these were Type As. This increased risk was there even when other risk factors, such as blood pressure and cigarette smoking, were statistically controlled.

Similar results were obtained in another large-scale study in Framingham, Massachusetts.  This time the sample contained both men and women.  By the early 1980s, it was confidently asserted that Type A characteristics were as much a risk factor for heart disease as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and even smoking.

Failure to Replicate

Later research failed to support these early findings. When Ragland and Brand (1988) conducted a 22-year follow-up of the WCGS, using CHD mortality as the crucially important measure, they failed to find any consistent evidence of an association.

Further research continued up to the late 1980s, yielding few positive findings. Reviewing this evidence, Myrtek (2001) suggests that the modest number of positive findings that did exist were the result of over-reliance on angina as the measure of CHD. Considering studies that adopted hard criteria, including mortality, Myrtek concludes that Type A personality is not a risk factor for CHD.

Enter the Tobacco Industry

With such disappointing results, why did Type A obtain so much publicity over more than 40 years? The reason is in part connected with the involvement of the US tobacco industry.

Mark Petticrew et al. (2012) analysed material lodged at the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library. This is a vast collection of documents that the companies were obliged to make public following litigation in 1998. These documents show that, for over 40 years from the 1950s, the industry heavily funded research into links between personality, CHD and cancer. The industry was hoping to demonstrate that personality variables were associated with cigarette smoking.

Any such links would undermine the alleged causal links between smoking and disease. Thus, for example, if it could be shown that Type A personalities were both more likely to smoke than Type Bs, and more likely to develop CHD, then it could be argued that smoking might be just an innocent background variable.

The Philip Morris company funded Meyer Friedman, the originator of Type A research, for the Meyer Friedman Institute. The research aimed to show that Type A personalities could be changed by interventions, thereby presumably reducing proneness to CHD even if they continued to smoke.

Petticrew et al. show that, while most Type A–CHD studies were not funded by the tobacco industry, most of the positive results were tobacco-funded. As has been pointed out in many areas of science, positive findings invariably get a great deal more publicity than negative findings and rebuttals.

Hans J Eysenck

The late H J Eysenck was one of the most controversial psychologists who ever lived. Generations of UK psychology students had to study his books as gospel.

The German-born, British psychologist worked at the Institute of Psychiatry, University of London.  He did a PhD under Sir Cyril Burt  who was proved to have fabricated researchers and data to support his eugenic theory of intelligence.  (Kamin, 1974, The science and politics of IQ).

Eysenck used the tobacco industry as a source of funding for his research on psychological theories of personality. According to Pringle (1996), Eysenck received nearly £800,000 to support his research on personality and cancer.  Eysenck’s results were a spectacular exception to the general run of negative findings in this field.  Eysenck (1988) claimed that personality variables are much more strongly related to death from cancer than even cigarette smoking.

One of my lecturers while I was an undergraduate had worked for Eysenck as a research assistant for a year. It had seemed clear to him that data massaging was required before placing Eysenck’s studies into publication. Data manipulation or even worse, outright fraud, has surfaced in a major re-analysis of Eysenck’s work on tobacco and personality.

Ronald Grossarth-Maticek

Two of Eysenck’s papers, with Ronald Grossarth-Maticek (pictured above), based  in Crvenka, Serbia, claimed to have identified personality types that increase the risk of cancer by about 120 times and heart disease by about 25 times (Grossarth-Maticek and Eysenck, 1991; Eysenck and Grossarth-Maticek, 1991). They also claimed to have tested a new method of psychological treatment that could reduce the death rate for disease prone personalities over the next 13 years from 80% to 32%. These claims are too good to be true.

These extraordinary claims were not received favourably by others in this field. Fox (1988) dismissed earlier reports by Eysenck and Grossarth-Maticek as ‘simply unbelievable’ and the 1991 papers were subjected to devastating critiques by Pelosi and Appleby (1992, 1993) and Amelang, Schmidt-Rathjens and Matthews (1996).  The ‘cancer prone personality’ was not clearly described and seems to have been an odd amalgam of emotional distance and excessive dependence.

A Case of Fraud?

After pointing out a large number of errors, omissions, obscurities and implausible data, in a manner reminiscent of Leon Kamin’s  analysis of Burt’s twin IQ data, Pelosi and Appleby comment:

It is unfortunate that Eysenck and Grossarth-Maticek omit the most basic information that might explain why their findings are so different from all the others in this field. The methods are either not given or are described so generally that they remain obscure on even the most important points . . . Also essential details are missing from the results, and the analyses used are often inappropriate.

(Pelosi and Appleby, 1992: 1297).

They never used the word “fraud”. They didn’t need to. For an update of this story,  see this post

and this post


I wrote to Ronald Grossarth-Maticek on 3rd December 2018 and again on 5th March 2019 inviting him to respond to the allegations.
Dr. Grossarth-Maticek has responded saying that he will give me an answer within the next month.
He also says that he will send me the results of his actual research.
To be continued…

Psychology – Science or Delusion?

‘Mass Delusion’

Psychology is full of theories, not ‘General Theories’, but ‘Mini-Theories’ or ‘Models’.  Most Mini-Theories/Models are wrong.  Unfortunately these incorrect theories and models often persist in everyday practice. This happens because Psychologists are reluctant to give up their theories. These incorrect theories then act like ‘mass delusions’, which can have consequences for others, especially students and patients.

Academic Psychology suffers from ‘delusions of grandeur’. It is as if an entire academic discipline is manifesting a chronic disorder – a kind of  ‘Scientific Psychosis’.   Psychologists claim that Psychology is a Science but there is no objective evidence to support it.  In fact, the evidence suggests the exact opposite.

Aping Science

The ability to ape proper science is not in doubt. Laboratories, experiments and grants, thousands of journals, books, institutes and universities all espouse Psychology as a Science.  Many psychologists even wear white lab coats and poke around in animals’ brains. The ability to mimic genuine scientists like Physicists or Biologists, however, does not make Psychology a science. It actually makes a mockery of science.

There are many reasons why this is the case. I mention here two:

1) Psychology does not meet even the most essential criterion for an authentic science – quantitative  measurement along ratio scales.

2) Unlike all the true natural sciences, Psychology lacks a general theory. A general theory is held by the majority of scientists working in the field.

The shared belief of the vast majority of psychologists that they are scientists, when all of the evidence suggests that this can’t be true,  is a form of professional ‘mass hysteria’.  Psychologists share a belief system of scientific delusion, thought disorder and conceptual confusion. They then impose their beliefs, not only on one another, but on their students and their patients.

Students and Patients

Many students and patients are having none of it.  They refuse to be suckered in by the claim.  But they have to be courageous enough to come out of the closet and say it. If they dare to say it in an essay or exam, then they’d better be prepared for a grade C, D, E or F.

Researchers have found that  “medical students think their psychology lectures are “soft and fluffy”students think psychology is less important than the other natural scienceschildren rate psychological questions as easier than chemistry or biology questions; and expert testimony supporting an insanity defence is seen as less convincing when delivered by a psychologist than a psychiatrist.”

On a few rare occasions, established psychologists have expressed their doubts about the scientific credentials of Psychology. For example, Jan Smedslund wrote about: “Why Psychology Cannot be an Empirical Science.” There is increasing evidence that many patients are skeptical about Psychology also.


Folie Imposée

Folie à deux (“madness of two”) occurs when delusional beliefs are transmitted from one individual to another.  When one dominant person imposes their delusional beliefs on another, it is folie imposée. In this case, the second person probably would never have become deluded if left to themselves. The second person is expected ultimately to reject the delusion of the first person, due to disproof of the delusional assumptions, and protest. This protest, however, will fall upon deaf ears.

The situation I describe is far from hypothetical.  It exists day in, day out, for millions of patients. One particular patient group are those labeled with ‘Medically Unexplained Symptoms’ (MUS).  Within this group is a particular group of patients with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (“ME”) and/or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (“CFS”).

Delusional thinking certainly can hurt and embarrass the individuals having the delusion (Psychologists and Psychiatrists). It can also be imposed upon others, for example, people in their care (Patients). To the help-seeking Patient, the Psychologist (or Psychiatrist) is an expert who follows the rules of Science. The Science informs the aetiology, diagnosis, and treatment of the Patient.

Treating Patients with ME/CFS

I consider here how many psychologists in the UK treat people labeled with ME/CFS. This treatment comes with the full backing of NICE (currently under review).

Psychological treatment for patients labeled with ME/CFS is based on a Psychological Theory of the illness. This theory is highly contested and has caused major controversies that has divided Patients from Psychologists and Psychiatrists.

The main Psychological Theory of ME/CFS asserts that ‘maladaptive’ cognitions and behaviours perpetuate the fatigue and impairment of individuals with ME/CFS (Wessely, David, Butler and Chalder, 1989). These authors represent the two main professions concerned with psychological illness, Psychology and Psychiatry.  They state: “It is essential to agree jointly on an acceptable model, because people need to understand their illness. The cognitive – behavioural model …can explain the continuation of symptoms in many patients.” This is where the imposition of the therapist’s model snaps in. “The process is therefore a transfer of responsibility from the doctor, in terms of his duty to diagnose, to the patient, confirming his or her duty to participate in the process of rehabilitation in collaboration with the doctor, physiotherapist, family and others.” (p. 26).

Although the Psychological Theory is contested by many scientists, patients and patient organisations who assume that their symptoms have an organic basis, i.e. a Physical Theory.

Vercoulen et al. (1998) developed a model of ME/CFS based on the Psychological Theory. However, Song and Jason (2005) suggested that the Psychological Theory was inaccurate for individuals with ME/CFS. In spite of the evidence against it, the Psychological Theory continues as the basis for cognitive behavioural and graded exercise therapies (GET) offered to individuals with ME/CFS. One reason for the continued use of an unsupported Psychological Theory is the PACE Trial, a lesson in how not to do proper science. Like most research, this trial was organised by a team and, in this case, the majority of principle investigators were Psychiatrists. This trial has been described as “one of the biggest medical scandals of the 21st century.”

New Approach Needed

In spite of the lack of empirical support, the Psychological Theory of ME/CFS lives on. ME/CFS patients are subjected to CBT and GET.  Patients and patient organisations protest about the treatments and are opposed to the Psychological Theory.  Perhaps Psychologists need to turn the Psychological Theory of unhelpful beliefs upon themselves.  If  ME/CFS has a physical (e.g. immunological) cause, then once the cause has been established, patients will have the chance of an effective treatment and decent care and  support.

The problems that exist for Psychologists’ treatment of patients with MUS and ME/CFS exist more generally across the discipline. A totally new approach is necessary.  Instead of tinkering with the problems at a cosmetic level by papering over the cracks, there is a need for root-and-branch change of a radical kind. The measurement problem must be addressed and there is a need for a general theory.   A new General Theory of Behaviour takes a step in that direction.

Psychology in Crisis – Sail On


‘Psychology in Crisis’ by Brian M Hughes has much in its favour. Like a knife through soft butter, it cuts through the huge swathes of BS that permeate Academic Psychology.  Brian Hughes addresses many different crises in Academic Psychology:

the Replication Crisis

the Paradigmatic Crisis (aka as the Theory Crisis or Fragmentation)

the Measurement Crisis 

the Statistical Crisis

the Sampling Crisis

the Exaggeration Crisis

None of these crises is new. The problem is the different crises are all getting bigger and more insoluble over time.

In his delightful book,  Psychology in Crisis, Hughes explains that there is little momentum to change because the discipline has taken over a century to build the mould. “The fact that the majority of those who teach psychology see no problem with the status quo, and so say nothing about it, does not indicate that their discipline is healthy. If anything, it implies the presence of groupthink. One might even consider it an instance of a mass delusion.” (p. 148, my italics).

A ‘mass delusion’! Strong words, but fully justified. The biggest delusion of all is the claim that Academic Psychology is a Science. There is no justification for this claim if Hughes’ allegations are true. Which they are.

As an academic discipline, Psychology continues to grow. The American Psychological Association reports that in 2012 – 2013, 1.84 million bachelor’s degrees were awarded to students. Of those, 6.2 percent of the degrees (or 114,080) went to psychology majors. The psychology major is the fourth most popular college major after business, health-related majors, and social science and history. In the 2013 academic year, 6,496 psychology doctorates were awarded in the U.S., a 32 percent increase from 2004.

One of simplest measures of Academic Psychology’s growth is publications numbers. The figures are plotted below for each quarter century since 1900. I got these numbers from Google Scholar.  Bearing in mind that the current quarter century still has 6 years to run, the increases are huge. The dotted line is an estimate for 2000-24 based on current trends. The line goes way off the chart.

Number of Publications about Psychology

Screen Shot 2018-09-21 at 16.54.11

As the Psychology enterprise continues to grow, it becomes ever more difficult to turn it around. To use a nautical analogy, the radius of the Turning Circle widens. The momentum to ‘Sail On’ becomes ever greater.

Changing Behaviour

The vast majority of people change their behaviour with no external help. They just do it. ‘Change experts’ include psychologists who advocate behaviour change techniques in their interventions. A behaviour change technique (BCT) is any systematic procedure (or a category of procedures) included as an active component of an intervention designed to change behaviour. The defining characteristics of a BCT are that it is:

• Observable
• Replicable
• Irreducible
• A component of an intervention designed to change behaviour
• A postulated active ingredient within the intervention (Michie et al., 2011).

The description, classification and investigation of BCTs has become a cottage industry. Places like UCL, Aberdeen and Cambridge Universities, together with IBM, have received several millions of pounds from the Medical Research Council and Wellcome Trust to construct an ‘ontology’ of behaviour change.

According to the project website, “Behavioural Scientists are developing an ‘ontology’: a defined set of entities and their relationships” which will be used to “organise information in a form that enables efficient accumulation of knowledge and enables links to other knowledge systems.”

bs-diagramdetailedThe top level of the ‘Behaviour Change Intervention Ontology’ (project website)

An ontology is a set of concepts and categories in a subject area that shows their properties and the relations between them. An ontology can only be helpful when nothing of importance to the system as a whole is left out.

A ‘BCT Taxonomy’ has been employed to code descriptions of intervention content into BCTs (Michie et al., 2011, 2013). The taxonomy aims to code protocols in order to transparently describe the techniques used to change behaviour so that protocols could be made clearer and studies could be replicated (Michie and Abraham, 2008; Michie et al, 2011). A taxonomy also can be used to identify which techniques are most effective so that intervention effectiveness could be raised and more people would change behaviour.

The production of a structured list of BCTs provides a ‘compendium’ of behaviour change methods which helps to map the domain of behaviour change and inform practitioner decision-making. However it also risks becoming a prescriptive ‘cook-book’ of what therapeutic techniques must be applied to patients presenting with a specific behavioural problem.

Another problem with the compendium approach is that BCTs are not all optimally effective when combined in ‘pick-and-mix’ fashion. There needs to be coherence to the package that is provided by a theory that offers power and meaning and connects the components into a working set.

I can illustrate this point by considering an intervention for smoking cessation, Stop Smoking Now (Marks, 2017). This therapy is an effective method for clearing the human body of nicotine. The desire to smoke and any satisfaction from smoking are abolished using different forms of CBT and mindfulness meditation. Stop Smoking Now includes 30 BCTs integrated within a coherent theory of change based on the concept of homeostasis. In Stop Smoking Now a structured sequence of BCTs is provided that takes into account the nesting of BCTs such that guided imagery works best in combination with relaxation and both of these work best following enhancement of self-efficacy, achieved using self-recording, positive affirmations and counter-conditioning.   In addition, our field evidence shows that the outcome is enhanced by having a personable delivery from a charismatic person who builds a positive therapeutic alliance.                  

bs-diagramdetailedWith so many missing elements, this an Incomplete Model of Behaviour Change

Where is the client person in the ‘Behaviour Change Intervention Ontology’, and what about their feelings and their own striving for new balance and equilibrium?  Where is the therapist and the therapeutic alliance?  The quality of the change agent, their clinical and interpersonal skills and the quality of the therapeutic alliance can be more important than the BCTs (Hilton & Johnston, 2017) .With so many missing elements, this is beginning to appear like a top-down model of behaviour change. One may be excused for wondering whether the people designing the ‘ontology’ have any real-world hands-on experience of delivering interventions.

Hagger and Hardcastle (2014) suggest that “Interpersonal style should be included in taxonomies of behavior change techniques”. The whole point is that the therapeutic alliance is something the therapist and the client need to strive for. The alliance creates a more equal power balance between therapist and the client. It is more important than another technique, another item on the list. It is more about the ‘chemistry’ of the client-therapist relationship than about a finely polished set of BCTs. The trouble is that the advocates of the BCT compendium/ontology appear unwilling to engage with the problem. Somewhat ironically, they are resistant to change. However, the problem will not just go away, but rears its head each and every time a therapist swings into action.

Behaviour change involves a collaboration between the client wanting to make the change, with their own desires and feelings, and the change agent/therapist. The therapeutic alliance between the two parties is crucial to the project’s ‘outcome’.  Therapist’s attributes such as being flexible, honest, respectful, trustworthy, confident, warm, interested, and open contribute to that alliance. From all of this it can readily be seen that the situation is far more complex than the proposed ‘Behaviour Change Intervention Ontology’. It is never as  simplistic as an ‘Intervention’,  ‘Mechanisms of Action’ and ‘Target Behaviour’.

To use an analogy, there is so much more to baking a cake than a set of ingredients. Of course one needs a set of ingredients (the BCTs) but one also needs a baker – the behaviour change agent (BCA). The BCA/therapist must be fully trained to prepare, mix and cook the ingredients, to be fully competent to deliver the BCTs in a stylish manner. The qualities of effective therapists have been studied for at least 50 years. The stock piling of a compendium of BCT ingredients without attending to the mixing and ‘baking’ of the ingredients by the BCA on the front line is a recipe for disaster.

smart chef character cooking behind kitchen table with various o

Including therapist attributes of flexibility, authenticity, respect, trustworthiness, confidence,  warmth, interest, and openness, along with the client’s goals, desires and striving provides a more accurate and comprehensive approach to behaviour change.


“Milestone text of the 21st century”

In ‘A General Theory of Behaviour, David Marks has applied scientifically established theory to conceptualize disparate areas of Psychology in a manner that both unifies and brings greater insight, establishing this book as a milestone text of the 21st century.

Dr David A Holmes, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Founder of the Forensic Research Group, Manchester Metropolitan University

Screen Shot 2018-09-04 at 14.20.03

“Inspiring book…compelling read”

This inspiring book applies the seemingly simple biological concept of homeostasis to human behaviour.  There is beautiful historic detail about key researchers, whilst considering modern issues such as stress, lack of sleep and addiction. A compelling read, which feels like an engaging lecture, by a passionate and considered speaker.

Janine Crosbie, Psychology Lecturer, University of Salford.


‘Rich soil’

“The field of psychology has many theories, but no General Theory. The unifying theory David Marks presents, along with the 20 principles, provide rich soil for further testing and opens up exciting avenues for psychology.”

Scott Barry Kaufman, Scientific Director, University of Pennsylvania


Hierarchy of Needs

The General Theory incorporates an amended form of Abraham Maslow’s (1943) motivational needs hierarchy. The diagram shows the hierarchy amended by Douglas T. Kenrick and colleagues  to which in the General Theory of Behaviour is added the process of Type II homeostasis. The first level of the hierarchy for Immediate Physiological Needs already incorporates homeostasis (Type I).  In discussing the second level for “Safety Needs”, Maslow states:

“The safety needs.—If the physiological needs are relatively well gratified, there then emerges a new set of needs, which we may categorize roughly as the safety needs. All that has been said of the physiological needs is equally true, although in lesser degree, of these desires. The organism may equally well be wholly dominated by them. They may serve as the almost exclusive organizers of behaviour, recruiting all the capacities of the organism in their service, and we may then fairly describe the whole organism as a safety-seeking mechanism.” (p.376).

In describing this need in detail, Maslow turned to the needs of children for a predictable, orderly world, a world which is reliable, safe and predictable:

“Another indication of the child’s need for safety is his preference for some kind of undisrupted routine or rhythm. He seems to want a predictable, orderly world. For instance, injustice, unfairness, or inconsistency in the parents seems to make a child feel anxious and unsafe. This attitude may be not so much because of the injustice per se or any particular pains involved, but rather because this treatment threatens to make the world look unreliable, or unsafe, or unpredictable. Young children seem to thrive better under a system which has at least a skeletal outline of rigidity, in which there is a schedule of a kind, some sort of routine, something that can be counted upon, not only for the present but also far into the future. Perhaps one could express this more accurately by saying that the child needs an organized world rather than an unorganized or unstructured one.”  (p. 377)

Maslow specifically links safety with ‘stability’:

“we can perceive the expressions of safety needs only in such phenomena as, for instance, the common preference for a job with tenure and protection, the desire for a savings account, and for insurance of various kinds (medical, dental, unemployment, disability, old age). Other broader aspects of the attempt to seek safety and stability in the world are seen in the very common preference for familiar rather than unfamiliar things, or for the known rather than the unknown.”(p. 379).

Maslow’s bracketing of safety with stability connects the needs pyramid with Type II homeostasis. It is noted that, in the amended pyramid, “Safety Needs” has been relabelled as “Self-Protection”. Thus all motives above level I are part and parcel of the striving for stability and equilibrium that is the function of homeostasis Type II. (Figure 1).

Screen Shot 2018-08-17 at 15.00.28Figure 1. The Hierarchy of Fundamental Human Needs. This figure integrates ideas from life-history development with Maslow’s needs hierarchy. This scheme adds reproductive goals, in the order they are likely to first appear developmentally. The model also depicts the later developing goal systems as overlapping with, rather than completely replacing, earlier developing systems. Once a goal system has developed, its activation is triggered whenever relevant environmental cues are salient. Type I homeostasis operates at level 1. All motives from self-protection at level 2 and above engage Type II homeostasis.  This figure is reproduced by permission from Kenrick, Griskevicius, Neuberg and Schaller (2010).

The amended Hierarchy is Principle II (Needs Hierarchy) of the General Theory, which is stated as follows: In the hierarchy of needs, Physiological Homeostasis Type I is active at level I (Immediate Physiological Needs) and Psychological Homeostasis Type II is active at all higher levels from II (Self-Protection) to level VI (Parenting).

 As priorities shift from lower to higher in the hierarchy we see a progression in developmental priority as each individual matures.  In fact, it is possible to apply the motivational hierarchy at three different levels of analysis: evolutionary function, developmental sequencing, and current cognitive priority (the proximate level). In agreement with Douglas T. Kenrick et al. (2010), the basic foundational structure of Maslow’s pyramid, buttressed with a few architectural extensions, remains perfectly valid.  Need satisfaction is allowed to be a goal at more than one level simultaneously. In light of the amended pyramid, three auxiliary propositions are stated as follows:

Individuals unable to meet their immediate physiological needs at level I of the hierarchy are at a disadvantage in meeting needs at higher levels in the hierarchy. [Auxiliary Proposition, AP, 004].

People with unmet needs for self-protection (level 2) are at a disadvantage in meeting their needs for affiliation (level 3). [AP 005].

In general, people with higher than average unmet needs at any level (n) are at a disadvantage in meeting higher level needs at levels n+m. [AP 006].

The universality of Abraham Maslow’s original needs hierarchy is supported by a survey of well-being across 123 countries. Louis Tay and Ed Diener (2011) examined the fulfilment of needs and subjective well-being (SWB), including life evaluation, positive feelings, and negative feelings.[2] Need fulfilment was consistently associated with SWB across all world regions. Type II homeostasis defined within the General Theory provides a close fit to the natural striving of conscious organisms for security, stability and well-being, described in later chapters. The needs hierarchy amended by Douglas T. Kenrick et al. (2010) is expected to be a close fit to nature.

An extract from: A General Theory of Behaviour.

A Redesign for Psychology


Science is beautiful when it makes simple explanations of phenomena or connections between different observations.

Stephen Hawking

It has been said that advances in science come not from empiricism but from new theories. With this thought in mind, A General Theory of Behaviour has the potential – or so I aim to convince the reader – to advance understanding of human nature and to integrate the discipline of Psychology. In A General Theory of Behaviour (link to an introductory video) I explain why this is (a) necessary, and (b) possible.

I think the majority of psychologists agree that integration is necessary. Fragmentation has been a longstanding and difficult problem for Psychology. Over more than a century, fragmentation has been called a ‘crisis’. The problem has been described thus: “a nexus of philosophical tensions, which divide individuals, departments, and psychological organizations, and which are therefore primarily responsible for the fragmentation of Psychology.” In many years’ experience as a student, researcher and professor of Psychology, I can testify to persistent and intractable tensions in every quarter of the discipline, worse in some places than others, but the fragmentation is evident everywhere.

The discipline can sometimes feel like a medieval country split into fiefdoms by moats, walls and a haphazard set of paltry roads, odd rules and customs (Figure P1, left panel). As the visitor approaches the border of the country, a smart road sign reads: “Welcome to the Science of Psychology”. Full of expectation, one passes through the guarded gates at border control (sniffer dogs, disinfectant spray guns, x-ray machines and millimetre wave scanners).

After screening by unsmiling officers in peaked caps, the traveller explores what excitement exists inside this guarded place. Each fiefdom provides glossy brochures, catalogues, and travel guides in which skies are always blue, buildings chateaux, and fountains high reaching with crystal waters.

Each area invites the visitor to drive over the draw bridge and take a detailed look. However, on close inspection, one senses a deep-seated problem. Something strange and slightly sinister appears to be going on. The locals appear defensive and ill at ease when one makes inquiries and asks even the simplest of questions such as “What does X mean?” As we travel around the country, barbed wire fences of ‘no-man’s land’ are everywhere and the few connecting roads are potholed and ill-made.

No man's land

In each sub-area, there is evidence of industrialisation with companies of artisans ploughing long straight furrows, planting pest-resistant seeds, spraying fields with Roundup®, harvesting their crops and filling rodent-proof silos with carefully sifted data, e.g. long-eared corn tastes better that short-eared, short-eared corn tasted better than oats, oats tastes better that long-eared corn (!) in cycles of planting, harvesting, testing and analysing.

Ploughed fields

Producers with the largest silos rule. In spite of all of the graft, one senses tension, disharmony and technical disputes is causing ill-feeling. If somebody breaks the famine with a bold new idea, s/he risks being pilloried, dunked or quarantined in the cut-off region called “Critical Psychology”. One wonders if Psychology really were a Science, would there be so many sub-regions, stretches of ‘no-mans-land’ and unrewarding customs?

Screen Shot 2018-08-17 at 12.00.57

Figure P1.The Science of Psychology. In its fragmented state (left panel), each sub-field acts as a defended niche with its own specific theories and data. In a unified state (right panel) the discipline would consist of a single General Theory that encompasses the entire field with a minimum number of assumptions, a large set of falsifiable hypotheses, and a body of empirical studies aimed at falsification of the General Theory.

Most commentators agree that a major redesign is long overdue to re-engineer the discipline. Travel between sub-areas needs to be made more navigable, moats emptied, walls razed and bridges built. It’s an Isambard Kingdom Brunel the science needs as much as another Charles Darwin.


The objectives of A General Theory of Behaviour are to take a few measured steps towards advancing Psychology as a natural science and, in so doing, to unify it (Figure P1, right panel). This brief introduction of 40,000 words offers twenty principles and eighty auxiliary propositions, 100 empirically falsifiable propositions. The principles and multiple auxiliary propositions make the General Theory fully and transparently capable of falsification. In embracing intentionality, purpose and desire, the General Theory is non-reductive while, at the same time, drawing upon principles from other sciences, in particular, Biology and Physiology. Following in the footsteps of Claude Bernard, Walter B Cannon and others, I try to convince the reader of the usefulness of the metamorphosed concept of behavioural homeostasis (link to video) and, in so doing, explain the implications for the Science of Behaviour.

My thesis is that organisms are not adapted to each other and the environment because natural selection made them that way, but they are made that way owing to an inbuilt striving towards stability and equilibrium. A General Theory of Behaviour is an introductory ‘User’s Guide’ aiming towards a reconfigured Science of Psychology – the target in the right-hand panel of Figure P1. In Chapters One and Two I describe the core elements of the theory. Chapters Three, Four and Five contain additional parts of the theory concerning biological rhythms, concepts of behaviour, Consciousness and the central Behaviour Control System. The remaining five chapters each cover three core topics from the perspective of the theory. These 15 topics indicate the ability of the theory to cover a broad cross-section of the discipline.

Heavy traffic

In building roads and bridges, one must neither over-design nor under-design. Nobody knows how sturdy the structure is until it is tested with a fleet of trucks. Should cracks occur (or worse), other ‘engineers’ might be persuaded to renovate the project. Surely it should be worth the effort. However long it takes, our broken discipline needs to be put together into one beautiful whole.

Book cover

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