“The whole mess started very early in his career”

Hans Eysenck’s False Claims Began in the 1950s and 60s

Evidence from Joachim Funke of the Psychologisches Institut, Universität Heidelberg shows that Hans Eysenck’s scholarly output was untrustworthy from the very beginning of his career. In the 1950s and 60s Eysenck positioned himself as the ‘enfant terrible’ of psychoanalysis. Eysenck claimed the evidence in support of the therapy was exceedingly poor or non-existent. Critics pointed out that Eysenck had misrepresented the research literature using incorrect statistics and biased summaries. The paper by A. Dührssen and E. Jorswieck states:

The data published by Eysenck do not concur with the original ones of Fenichel, Alexander, Jones and Knight. According to Eysenck psychoanalysts obtained 43% positive results, yet the authors published results that were 80% positive.

In their paper, A. Dührssen and E. Jorswieck attempted to correct the scientific record. However, the correction was less impactful than Hans Eysenck’s inflammatory diatribes. The full reference is as follows:

Dührssen, A., & Jorswieck, E. (1962). Zur Korrektur von EYSENCKs Berichterstattung über psychoanalytische Behandlungsergebniese. Acta Psychotherapeutica et Psychosomatica, 329-342.

The publication contains a summary in English, which is copied below.

Summary

The publications of Eysenck concerning psychoanalytic literature
have been studied and checked. The data published by Eysenck do not
concur with the original ones of Fenichel, Alexander, Jones and
Knight. Since Eysenck himself stated that he had to evaluate the original
data according to certain view points in order to get comparable
results, his data have been rechecked according to his method. It
became apparent that even then other percentages in all details resulted
as Eysenck had published. Even the number of finished cases,
published by the authors, did not concur with number published by
Eysenck. Especially significant is the difference between Eysenck’s
and the original data concerning positive therapeutic results of
psychoanalysis. According to Eysenck psychoanalysts have 43%
positive results, the authors published 80% positive.

It has all gone very quiet on the retractions front. Apparently, the relevant editors and publishers couldn’t care less, such is the poor state of governance in academic publishing.

To quote Joachim Funke, the ‘whole mess’ started very early in his career.

Sadly, elements of Hans Eysenck’s mythology live on to this very day.

References

  1. Alexander, F.: Critical evaluation of therapeutic results. In: Five-year report
    1932-1937, p. 30-40 (Institute for Psychoanalysis, Chicago).
  2. Eysenck, H.J.: The effects of psychotherapy: An evaluation. J. consulting
    Psychol. 1952, 16:5, 319 ff.
  3. Eysenck, H. J.: Woran krankt die Psychoanalyse? Monat 88: 18 (1955).
  4. Eysenck, H.J.: Wege und Abwege der Psychologie. In: Rowohlts Deutsche
    Enzyklopädie, p. 10 8-1 10 (Rowohlt, Hamburg 1956).
  5. Eysenck, H.J.: The effects of psychotherapy. In: Handbook of abnormal
    psychology, p. 697ff. (New York, 1961).
    6€ Fenichel, O. : Statistischer Bericht über die therapeutische Tätigkeit 1920-1930.
    In: 10 Jahre Berliner Psychoanalytisches Institut, p. 13-19 (Wien, 1930).
  6. Jones, E.: Report of the clinic work 1926-1936. In: The London clinic of
    psycho-analysis. Decennial Report, p. 10-14 (London, 1936).
  7. Knight, R.P.: Evaluation of the results of psychoanalytic therapy. Amer. J.
    Psych. 1941: 434ff.

Published by David F Marks

Author, editor, psychologist.

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