A General Theory of Behaviour I

The first in a 12-part series about A General Theory of Behaviour (AGTB). AGTB is a new theory of behaviour founded on the principle of ‘Psychological Homeostasis’. AGTB includes 20 principles and 80 associated propositions (AP).


I trace here the history of the theory of Psychological Homeostasis as a universal principle of behaviour.

This story begins in the fifth century BC with the Greek philosopher Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine”, the vis medicatrix naturae, and the idea of the body as a natural healer of imbalances.

Fast forward 2.4 thousand years to the nineteenth century AD to the life and theories of Claude Bernard. Walter B Cannon coined the term ‘homeostasis’ for Bernard’s principle.

I extend the principle in A General Theory of Behaviour.

Claude Bernard

French physiologist Claude Bernard (1813-1878) was  a near contemporary of Charles Darwin (1809-1882). CB is recognised as the ‘Father of Modern Physiology and Experimental Medicine’, best known for his work on the pancreas and vasomotor system, and for discovering glycogen.

Yet, CB’s description of the milieu intérieur in living organisms is equally significant. It is also a dangerous idea –  a very dangerous idea. The principle states:

The stability of the internal environment is the condition for the free and independent life.”

So, who exactly was Claude Bernard?

Born in the quiet village of Saint-Julien, among the vineyards of the Beaujolais region of the Val de Saône in France, life here is slow but productive.  I visited Bernard’s home, which is part of a dedicated museum (LE MUSÉE CLAUDE BERNARD, see photos below). Every square centimetre of soil in this region is planted in vine.

The young Claude was fascinated by fine art, literature and philosophy: Delacroix, Victor Hugo and René Descartes. He wasn’t too much interested in the school curriculum and applied his talents to writing plays, such as a vaudeville comedy, La Rose du Rhône, and a five-act tragedy, Arthur de Bretagne.[1]

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To the disappointment of his parents and teachers, Bernard did not reach his full potential and disgraced himself by failing his bachelor’s degree. He left college without qualifications or any career aims.  He worked as an apprentice to a pharmacist in Lyon, but got fired.  Things were not going well.  However, encouraged by having a comedy performed in a local theatre, Bernard hoped to become a writer and moved to Paris.

After receiving advice from a respected critic, Bernard had a change of heart and enrolled at medical school. At medical school he was romantically attracted to a young woman, a patient from one of the wards, but his approaches were rebuffed, leading him to write sadly and prophetically: “I think I would never be destined to be happy in love.”[2]

After his romantic rebuff, Bernard threw himself into his work and meets the leading physiologist, François Magendie, and becomes his assistant. He works hard for Magendie’s but receives another knock-back in 1844 when he fails the competition at the Faculty of Medicine and is barred from practicing as a physician. Having no means of support he thinks of returning to Saint-Julien to tend the vines as a ‘country doctor’ but, encouraged by others, he turns his attention to full-time basic physiological research – a move that changes the history of medicine. Then, out of the blue…along comes Fanny.

In 1845 Bernard marries Marie Françoise “Fanny” Martin for her dowry. This sounds cold and calculating, but this is how it was sometimes done way back then. This pragmatic if unromantic arrangement enabled Bernard to continue his physiological experiments. From this point Bernard’s career takes an upward turn.

Bernard’s Discoveries

In 1855, Bernard isolates and names glycogen. He learns how glycogen in the liver maintains the blood glucose levels at near constant level with a process that is termed today ‘homeostasis’. For lazier scientists, this would have been a large enough laurel to rest upon, supping on wine from your very own vineyard.  Not Claude Bernard. In 1864 Emperor Louis Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie invite Bernard to stay at Compiegne Castle where Bernard makes a real impression, standing out in the French intelligentsia of architects, engineers, artists and philosophers.  The Emperor offers Bernard a laboratory at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle and opens doors to the most important people of the day.  Claude Bernard has arrived.

While recuperating from an illness at Saint-Julien in 1865, Bernard writes a classic text, The Introduction To Experimental Medicine, where he states: “There are physicians who are fanatical about the effects of the drugs they prescribe. They do not accept critical comments which are based upon experiments. They say you can only prescribe drugs which you believe in, and they think that prescribing a drug to a patient you doubt about shows a lack of medical ethics. I don’t accept this way of thinking, it means deceiving oneself and deceiving others.”[4] Seventy years before Karl Popper, Claude Bernard is asserting the principle of falsification.

As a scientist, Bernard is the complete package. He “embraces both theory and experimental practice “and associates “all the terms of the experimental method in solidarity with one another”. As Bernard writes: “Experimental ideas are very often born by chance and on the occasion of an fortuitous observation…the theory is only the scientific idea controlled by experience (…), in the aspiration of the mind towards the unknown“, a proposal that has a contemporary flavour.[5]

In his Lessons of Phenomena of Life in Animals and Plants Bernard (1878-79) writes: “…there are in fact two environments, one milieu which is outside the body and an inner milieu, in which the components of living tissues are embedded. The real existence of the animal doesn’t take place in the external world but inside the liquid medium of circulating organic fluid. This fluid is the expression of all local nutrition and the source and mouth of elementary exchange.

Claude Bernard dies a national hero, with full honours, the first state funeral granted to any scientist in France. The Université Claude-Bernard Lyon 1 is named in his honour, one of the three public universities of Lyon, and specializes in science, technology and health. ‘Rue Claude Bernard’ is located in the Latin Quarter of Paris and, in Lyon, the ‘Quay Claude Bernard ’ is located by the Rhone River.[6]

Walter B Cannon’s term ‘Homeostasis’


We turn to Bernard’s concept of the milieu intérior. Here the story gets interesting…

For several decades Claude Bernard’s ‘dangerous idea’ [7], the milieu intérior, was put on the back burner because nobody quite knew what to do with it. In the early Twentieth Century it was taken up by J.S. Haldane, C.S Sherrington, J. Barcroft  and a few others.[8]

In 1926 the concept gained currency when Harvard physiologist Walter B Cannon coined the term homeostasis.  In Cannon’s view, his book The Wisdom of the Body had presented a modern interpretation of vis medicatrix naturae, the healing power of nature posited by Hippocrates. Cannon believed he had shown how the automatic function of homeostasis freed the brain for the more intellectual functions of intelligence, imagination and insight.

At this point, the homeostasis story picks up apace. Add to the mix of Bernard and Cannon, spice the pot with the work of Wiener (1948), Von Bertalanffy (1968) and season it with the work of the evolutionary biologists and we have a ‘stew’ to die for. As the contents of the pot bubble and coalesce, we sense that homeostasis is not only advantageous for any living system, but it could even be the defining characteristic of life itself.[9]

A Universal Principle of Behaviour

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 drive towards stability, security and adaptation to change. In an infinite variety of forms, omnipresent in living beings, is an inbuilt function with the sole purpose of striving for equilibrium, not only in the milieu intérieur but in the milieu extérieur also.

We take a gigantic leap…but that’s why we are here – even if we feel we are at the edge of a cliff – we must go for it…

On the other side of Bernard’s scientific coin, we imagine we find the following:

“The stability of the external environment is the condition for the free and independent life.” 

By changing a single word ‘internal’ to its antonym ‘exterior’, a whole new theoretical perspective for the Science of Behaviour is created. Voila – “A General Theory of Behaviour”.[10]  Striving for balance and equilibrium is the guiding force in all we – and all other conscious beings –  do, think and feel.  This newly defined homeostasis deserves a descriptive name: I call it the “Reset Equilibrium Function” or REF.

The principle is a universal one in the natural world.  The planet operates with one binding principle, ‘Gaia’.  The Gaia hypothesis holds that living organisms interact with their surroundings on Earth to form synergistic and self-regulatingcomplex system that helps to maintain and perpetuate the conditions for life on the planet ( James Lovelock). In microcosm, human behaviour is a synergistic, self-regulating, complex system of homeostasis.

All organisms automatically regulate essential physiological functions by homeostasis and it is a matter of everyday observation that drives are maintained in equilibrium by comportment, e.g. eating, drinking, fornicating, sleeping, excreting, etc. This type of homeostasis has been established since the time of Bernard. Far more than this, and as a matter of routine, without any special reflection in most instances, all conscious beings reconcile discrepancies among their thoughts, behaviours, and feelings and in the differences with those with whom they have social relationships. Conscious organisms strive to achieve their goals while maximizing cohesion and cooperation with both kith and kin and, at the same time, striving to take away or to minimize the suffering and pain of others. [AP 001].

The goal is to minimize all forms of eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation and tooth-and-claw competition and to live in a culture where the thriving of all is in the self-interest of every individual.  The idea has been described by Antonio Damasio thus: “cultural instruments first developed in relation to the homeostatic needs of individuals and of groups as small as nuclear families and tribes. The extension to wider human circles was not and could not have been contemplated. Within wider human circles, cultural groups, countries, even geopolitical blocs, often operate as individual organisms, not as parts of one larger organism, subject to a single homeostatic control. Each uses the respective homeostatic controls to defend the interests of its organism” (Damasio, 2018, p. 32).[11]

Whether we are aware of it or not, the REF is omnipresent, wherever we go and whatever we are doing. The process is not something we normally focus attention on, the process through which our behavioural systems are perpetually striving to maintain balance, safety and stability in our physical and social surroundings. Competing drives, conflicts, and inconsistencies all can pull the flow of events ‘off balance’, triggering this innate striving to restore equilibrium. The majority of people for the majority of time strive to calm and quieten local disturbances of equilibrium rather than to exacerbate them. [AP 002]. It is not a battle that we can always win; there is always the possibility of instability, error, calamity or catastrophe even. There are abundant links to other theories inside and outside of Psychology. Piaget’s notion of equilibration was concerned with the attempt to balance psychological schemas when new information is encountered. In equilibration, children accommodate new information by changing their psychological schemas in a process of assimilation. This same idea applies to other psychological domains when there is a departure from a set range of equilibrium.  Advocates of Buddhist philosophy, for example, the Dalai Lama, have identified a need for inner peace.[12]

Body and mind continuously regulate and control many domains and levels simultaneously, with multiple adjustments to voluntary and involuntary behaviour guided by two types of homeostasis: Type I – inwardly striving or physiological homeostasis, H[Φ], and Type II – outwardly striving or psychological homeostasis, H[Ψ]. Physiological regulation involves drives such as hunger, thirst, sex, elimination and sleep.  Influenced by Cannon, Clark Hull (1943)[13] suggested a drive theory of regulatory mechanisms in which an organism can only rest when it is in a state of equilibrium. When a need such as hunger or thirst develops, the organism engages in need-satisfying behaviour.  However, ‘drive’ can be mental as well as physical so that misery, fear and worry – often lumped together as ‘stress’ – create a state of unrest that prevents calmness, relaxation and sleep. Whenever we feel unrest, there is a need to ‘press the reset button’ and restore equilibrium. The ‘Reset Equilibrium Function’ (REF) operates across all behavioural systems and processes of relevance to the Science of Psychology.

Reset Equilibrium Function (REF)

The Reset Equilibrium Function (or ‘REF’) is the principle of homeostasis in psychological processes and behaviour. We employ systems theory with cyclical negative feedback loops as a central feature. Feedback loops in Cybernetics and Control Theory mirror homeostasis within Biology and Neuroscience. Claude Bernard’s ‘milieu intérnal’, Cannon’s (1932) ‘homeostasis’, Wiener’s (1948) Cybernetics and von Bertalanffy’s (1968) general systems theory all converge toward the ubiquitous role of feedback in self-regulating systems. Psychologists have employed control theory as a conceptual tool for large areas of Psychology (e.g. Carver and Scheier, 1982)[14] and, notably, one objective of control theory has been to provide a “Unified Theory of Human Behaviour”[15].

AGTB describes systems of homeostasis in networks of interconnected processes with values that are reset by the REF. This idea is founded on principles in Biology, Engineering and Cybenetics which have compelling isomorphisms with phenomena in Psychology.

The Reset Equilibrium Function extends the reach of homeostasis to a general control function that automatically restores psychological processes to equilibrium and stability. The REF is triggered when any processes within a system strays outside of its set range. The REF is innate and can exist only in conscious organisms, which all have Type I and II homeostasis. Non-conscious organisms have one type of homeostasis (Type I).  Figure 1.1 shows Type II homeostasis in a system of four processes, each with its own set range, making a series of resets. Any set of processes such as the four in Figure 1.1 is a sub-set of thousands of interconnected processes responsible for coding, communicating and controlling inside the body and the brain. Any process can be connected to hundreds or thousands of others in one huge lattice structure. Potentially any single one of these processes can push any other process out of its set range requiring it to reset. When any process resets, a ‘domino-effect’ is possible when other interconnected processes require a reset also. The two types of homeostasis work in synergy. Psychological and physiological processes operate in tandem to maximize equilibrium for each particular set of functions. [AP 003].

Many examples of the REF featured in AGTB have a similar structure to that shown in Figure 1.1. However, there is no restriction on the number of participating processes or interconnected networks.[16]

FIG 1.1.pngFigure 1. The Reset Equilibrium Function (REF) in a system with four interconnected processes (A-D). Whenever one or more processes exits its set range, the REF returns each process to its set range. The configuration of 4 processes is for expositional convenience. Any number of processes, forming a network of lattice structures, may participate in complex behaviours.

 My main objective here is to demonstrate that the REF is relevant to numerous psychological functions. These include functions where frequent reset is a condition for stability, e.g. cognition, affect, chronic stress, and subjective well-being, and also where out-of-control behavior, such as addiction or insomnia, is in need of correction. For all psychological functions, conscious awareness of the state of equilibrium being preserved is not necessary, e.g. subjective well-being. However, when there is goal to change behavior, conscious awareness of the goal and full engagement of resources are necessary preconditions for purposeful striving, e.g. addiction to alcohol.

Principle 1: Purpose, Desire and Intentionality

In Psychology, biological approaches automatically fall under the suspicion that material reductionism is required. This suspicion is widespread among psychologists who are anti-reductive. With good reason, mind and behaviour are viewed as having properties that extend beyond ‘cogs and flywheels’ or other physico-chemical energy exchanges. We do not doubt the basic ‘clockwork’ model of homeostasis is the dominant one; witness the frequent use of the domestic heating thermostat as the prototypical example of homeostasis in Biology, Physiology and Psychology textbooks.  However, the ‘clockwork’ approach is a simplistic caricature and the idea that behaviour is reducible to physico-chemical reactions is robustly rejected:

Principle I (Agency): The voluntary behaviour of conscious organisms is guided by  universal striving for equilibrium with purpose, desire and intentionality.[17]

Following G.E.M. Anscombe, we assert that agents act intentionally if they know what they are doing, i.e. they are aware of the purpose of the act and the reasons for doing it.[18] Type 2 homeostasis, which is associated with the REF, falls into this category.  In arguing that homeostasis (Type II)  is intentional and purposeful, we adopt two non-reductionist principles, holism and critical realism.  In applying the General Theory it is never necessary to assume that mental processes and behaviours are reducible to physico-chemical reactions. We only require that the mind/body system as a whole can be studied using objective methods. Von Bertalanffy (1968) sums up the issue thus:

“We cannot reduce the biological, behavioural, and social levels to the lowest level, that of the constructs and laws of physics. We can, however, find constructs and possibly laws within the individual levels. The world is, as Aldous Huxley once put it, like a Neapolitan ice cream cake where the levels-the physical, the biological, the social and the moral universe-represent the chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla layers. We cannot reduce strawberry to chocolate – the most we can say is that possibly in the last resort, all is vanilla, all mind or spirit. The unifying principle is that we find organizational levels. The mechanistic world view, taking the play of physical particles as ultimate reality, found its expression in a civilization which glorifies physical technology that has led eventually to the catastrophes of our time. Possibly the model of the world as a great organization can help to reinforce the sense of reverence for the living which we have almost lost in the last sanguinary decades of human history.” (Von Bertalanffy, 1968, p. 49).  Bene dictum.

There are connections and overlaps with other theories of motivation.  For example, there is almost complete convergence between the General Theory and Stevan E Hofoll’s Conservation of Resources (COR) theory, which holds the basic tenet that “Individuals (and groups) strive to obtain, retain, foster, and protect those things they centrally value.”.[19] Principle I (Agency) concerning the universal striving for equilibrium requires the basic COR tenet to be true or equilibrium could never be attained.


[1] Arthur I, Duke of Brittany (born 1187, died 1203?) captured in battle by John, King of England, at Mirebeau-en-Poitou in 1202, imprisoned and murdered by John, is featured in Shakespeare’s play The Life and Death of King John. See: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Arthur-I.

[2] Claude Bernard: http://www.claude-bernard.co.uk/page27.htm

[3] La vie de Cl Bernard Chapitre II, Christian Furia, La Gazette, p. 4: http://bit.ly/2GImpvS

[4] The gullibility of French physicians and patients continues to the present day with many doctors prescribing homeopathic remedies to their patients, fully convinced of their efficacy.

[5] See Jean Bastin, La Gazette, Les lapins de Claude Bernard,  p.3: bit.ly/2GImpvS

[6] Bernard’s research included cutting open conscious animals under curare, or slowly “cooking” animals in ovens for his studies on thermoregulation. Unhappy with her husband and his work, Bernard’s wife Fanny divorced him, taking away his two daughters, who grew up to hate him. Bernard’s alleged vivisection of the family dog did not much help his case. Fanny became a leading antivivisectionist, setting up rescue shelters for dogs. See: Franco, N. H. (2013). Animal experiments in biomedical research: a historical perspective. Animals3(1), 238-273.

[7] I borrow this description from J Scott Turner (who borrowed it from Daniel Dennett).

[8] Gross, C. G. (1998) Claude Bernard and the constancy of the internal environment. Neuroscientist 4: 380-385.

[9] Homeostasis enables purposeful striving towards equilibrium between all members of the ecosystem. In continuously changing environmental conditions, all life forms can co-exist in an ever-renewing state of balance.

[10] Allusions to social equilibrium appear in Pareto’s General Sociology and in the Epilogue of Cannon’s The Wisdom of the Body. To the best of this author’s knowledge, the idea of ‘Psychological Homeostasis’ has not previously been systematically formulated. Donald E Williams and J. Kevin Thompson in 1993 discussed the possibility of a set-point hypothesis for Psychology but it was not fully developed: Williams, D. E., & Thompson, J. K. (1993). Biology and behavior: A set-point hypothesis of psychological functioning. Behavior Modification17(1), 43-57.

[11] Damasio, Antonio (2018). The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures (p. 32). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

[12] The Dalai Lama at the opening day of a Convention for Global Peace at the Government Degree College in Dharamsala, HP, India on December 2, 2017. http://bitly.ws/yC2

[13] Hull, C. L. (1943). Principles of behavior. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

[14] Carver, C. S., & Scheier, M. F. (1982). Control theory: A useful conceptual framework for personality–social, clinical, and health Psychology. Psychological bulletin92(1), 111.

[15] Grinker, R. R. (1967). Normality viewed as a system. Archives of general psychiatry17(3), 320-324.

[16] Here we must represent homeostatic networks in two dimensions. In nature they exist in four-dimensions with the inclusion of time.

[17] As Turner (2017) states: “All homeostasis involves a kind of wanting, an actual desire to attain a particular state, and the ability to create that state” (p. xxx).

[18] Anscombe, G. E. M. (1963). Intention (second edition). Oxford, United Kingdom: Blackwell.

[19] Hobfoll, S. E., Halbesleben, J., Neveu, J. P., & Westman, M. (2018). Conservation of Resources in the Organizational Context: The Reality of Resources and Their Consequences. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior.

I Am Conscious, Therefore, I Am


Organisms are adapted to each other and the environment because there is an inbuilt striving toward security, stability, and equilibrium. A General Theory of Behavior connects imagery, affect, and action with the central executive system we call consciousness, a direct emergent property of cerebral activity. The General Theory is founded on the assumption that the primary motivation of all of consciousness and intentional behavior is psychological homeostasis. Psychological homeostasis is as important to the organization of mind and behavior as physiological homeostasis is to the organization of bodily systems. Consciousness processes quasi-perceptual images independently of the input to the retina and sensorium. Consciousness is the “I am” control center for integration and regulation of (my) thoughts, (my) feelings, and (my) actions with (my) conscious mental imagery as foundation stones. The fundamental, universal conscious desire for psychological homeostasis benefits from the degree of vividness of inner imagery. Imagery vividness, a combination of clarity and liveliness, is beneficial to imagining, remembering, thinking, predicting, planning, and acting. Assessment of vividness using introspective report is validated by objective means such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). A significant body of work shows that vividness of visual imagery is determined by the similarity of neural responses in imagery to those occurring in perception of actual objects and performance of activities. I am conscious; therefore, I am.


Figure 1. Leonardo da Vinci, Ramón y Cajal, Marie Curie, and Albert Einstein—creative people who used vivid mental imagery to make world-changing discoveries. Einstein’s thought experiments and his statements on the imagination are particularly salient.

Full text of paper available here.

Marks, D.F. I Am Conscious, Therefore, I Am: Imagery, Affect, Action, and a General Theory of Behavior. Brain Sci. 20199, 107.

Master Faker H J Eysenck

“People fake only when they need to fake.”

The replication crisis in science begins with faked data. I discuss here a well-known recent case, Hans J Eysenck. An enquiry at King’s College London and scientific journals  concluded that multiple publications by Hans J Eysenck’s are ‘unsafe’ and must be retracted. These recent events suggest that the entire edifice of Eysenck’s work warrants re-examination. In this post I examine some early experimental research by Eysenck and his students at the Institute of Psychiatry during the 1950s and 60s.

Hans J Eysenck was a chameleon-figure in the science of psychology. Eysenck doctored data from the very beginning of his theorising. Time and again HJE proved  that he was a master of camouflage. I examine here some historically significant data that HJE used to promote his biological theory of personality, data that were used by HJE in a misleading way to promote his theories.

The evidence suggests that HJE massaged data to give them more ‘scientific’ appeal.  HJE’s biological theory had predicted that introverts would condition more quickly than extraverts. The original data were collected by Cyril M Franks who had worked for his PhD under Eysenck’s supervision at the Institute of Psychiatry, London. Even Franks would later turn upon the master for his misleading methodology and data analysis. However, HJE dismissed and vehemently attacked all of his critics, claiming they were wrong, foolhardy and unreasonable.

HJE’s version of Cyril Franks’ data was originally published in the British Journal of Psychology (Eysenck, H. J. (1962). Conditioning and personality. British Journal of Psychology53(3), 299-305) and again, the next year, in Nature (Eysenck, H. J. (1963). Biological basis of personality. Nature199(4898), 1031-1034 and in multiple other publications. HJE doctored the data to make the introverts show a more rapid increase than the extraverts. These data were a crucial step in his theory published in his 1957 book, The dynamics of anxiety and hysteria.

HJE used a series of questionable  practices (QPRs) that raised many eyebrows including insiders at the Institute of Psychiatry.  Eysenck’s theory of personality became the subject of scathing criticism. Chapter 5 of Playing With Fire by Rod Buchanan  provides the full details.

My personal skepticism about HJE began as an undergraduate student when a lecturer, Vernon Hamilton, told me that HJE had ‘cheated’ with his data – see Hamilton’s critique here.  Other telling criticism was published by Storms and Sigal here and in another article with Franks: see Sigal, Star and Franks here.

In spite of all of the controversy, which he seemed to rather enjoy, HJE became one of the most influential psychologists of all time. His Nature paper has been cited 6331 times.

In light of the recent exposure of Eysenck as a person who carried out serial publication fraud, it is informative to take a close look at Cyril Franks’ PhD research that in HJE’s creative accounting became a foundation stone of HJE’s first theory of personality.  



An almost perfect set of findings, one might assume – too good to be true even. My detailed scrutiny suggests that this was indeed the case. When one examines the data HJE used to generate these two curves, we see anything but smoothly increasing scores.


Franks tested a hypothesis attributed to Pavlov: “Neurotics of the dysthymic type form conditioned reflexes rapidly, and these reflexes are difficult to extinguish; neurotics of the hysteric type form conditioned reflexes slowly, and these reflexes are easy to extinguish”.  Franks chose data from 20 dysthymic patients (having rejected data from 8 others),  20 hysteric patients (having rejected data from 7 others), and 20 non-patients …in a specially constructed soundproof conditioning laboratory.”  The results for the dysthymic and hysteric groups were as follows:

Franks 1956 Not unreasonably, Franks concluded that dysthymics give significantly more CR’s than hysterics. Buoyed by his initial success, Franks carried out another study to examine the factor of extraversion/introversion in the same eye-blink conditioning task. In this instance, Franks hypothesised, following HJE’s theory, that the introverts conditioned more quickly than the extraverts.


Franks’ 1957 data again show the rates of  classical conditioning in eye-blink responses in this case for 15 introverts and 15 extraverts.  According to Eysenck’s theory, the former group should show more rapid conditioning than the latter. The maximum score was 15.



HJE combined the data from Franks’ two studies in a rather creative and unconventional manner.  HJE combined data from groups of introvert non-patients with patients diagnosed with dysthymia and he combine data from a group of extravert non-patients and patients categorised as hysterics. The data from the two Franks studies were a hotchpotch that needs untangling.

1)  Eysenck combined the data from the extraverts with the data from the patients classified as hysterics and the data from the introverts with that collected from the dysthymics  This rather odd amalgam smoothed out many of the jagged edges in the two data sets.

2) There was no justification for assuming that the CR rates began at zero because all four groups had minimum scores well above zero. This fact was pointed out by Vernon Hamilton. Yet HJE doctored the data look this way by imposing curves that started at a zero origin.

The next figure shows the data after they had been combined, groups D and I together, and groups H and E together.  I show the combined data with HJE’s smooth curves and the data points as HJE reported them.


HJE’s 4-step approach to a successful scientific outcome proceeded as follows:

  • First, HJE combined data from 4 different groups to create two new groups even though there was no scientific basis for doing so.
  • Second, although HJE’s and my computations of the combined data points show  a fair degree of consistency, HJE appears to have ‘adjusted’ a few data points that didn’t fit the curve.
  • Third, HJE’s gave his smoothed curves zero starting points, contrary to the actual data, which indicate above-zero baseline scores. HJE attempted to disguise the fact that the groups had radically different, non-zero starting points.
  • Fourth, HJE ignored the fact that two lines with identical slope fitted the data equally well.

Using these devices, HJE promoted the data as respectable science fit for publication in the most reputable journals. This analysis suggests something rather different – that HJE was an out-and-out charlatan.

The left panel of the diagram below shows HJE’s published curves with his cunningly averaged data-points converted to percentages (small dots), and the same averaged data-points obtained by this author (DFM; o’s and x’s). In most cases, HJE’s and DFM’s data points coincide. In at least 4 instances, however, HJE’s points lie closer to the theoretical curve than the correct figures would suggest.

The right-hand panel shows the fit to the same two data sets using linear plots with identical slope.  Neither of the fitted functions look anywhere near perfect, but there is no prima facie case for preferring the curvilinear to the linear fit.


HJE curves and lines FINAL.png


HJE constructed a curvilinear association between eye-blink classical conditioning rates and questionnaire measures of extraversion-introversion. These curves were artificially doctored to suggest that introverts conditioned more quickly than extraverts, as HJE’s theory had predicted. By combining data that did not belong together, HJE was able to smooth the data sets, which when considered separately did not fit the predictions quite so well.  HJE avoided a feasible alternative (null) hypothesis that the two groups produced identical rates of conditioning. In so doing, HJE helped to establish his first biological theory of personality. This was not only bad science, it was faked science, the work of a chameleon.

I thank Rod Buchanan for his input and advice.






Psychology and the Paranormal

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”

So the well-worn saying goes.

Are there? If so, what are they? And how does one obtain solid evidence? These questions have taxed human beings for millennia.

A zetetic approach

I approach psychology and the paranormal  in a spirit of enquiry, wondering where it may lead. I hope it might lead to new knowledge and theory.  I have no fixed ideas on the subject. My previous skepticism has relaxed somewhat.

How can that be?  Surely, a so-called ‘expert’ must already have an opinion one way or the other? Wrong!

The truth is that I started a new inquiry having no fixed ideas about which direction the evidence will lead. In fact, that inquiry led me into a most unexpected direction – my critique of laboratory ESP research became stronger as did my conviction that spontaneous ESP was worthy of serious consideration.   

One thing I know – it is necessary to step beyond old assumptions, seek alternative ways of discovering new knowledge.

If we already KNEW the answer, the TRUTH, why would we bother to read, write or even THINK for that matter, because the truth must already be determined, already written by somebody, somewhere and all that would be left would be to pick up established learning.

Believers vs. Disbelievers

It is apparent to any observer that the paranormal field is divided between two armies of believers (so-called ‘sheep’) and skeptics (so-called ‘goats’, who are actually dis-believers) battling it out with no holds barred.

The stakes are high. The fight is not about empirical studies, observations and anecdotes.  The very nature of science, life and reality are being contested.

There are ‘dead bodies’ and ‘unexploded land mines’ all over the place and one would be lucky to leave the field in one piece. One can surmise that there can only be losers, never winners, in this futile type of war. In the end every soldier in the affray is a loser. It’s an intellectual version of World War I with permanent trenches and barbed wire fences that has been waging for over a century.

I know this because I have been there on the battle field.  I entered the field and did several tours of duty. Then, battle-weary with the affray, I walked away.

Recently I returned to see if anything has changed.

As I stuck my head over the trench top waving a white flag of peace, a few warning shots were fired. The same old battle is raging but with the difference that many new foot soldiers have been recruited and there have been scores of  new studies over the last 20 years. These studies have been weaponised to provide increased power, precision and impact.

The army of non-believers now possesses a stockpile of findings consistent with scientific explanations of the paranormal. The believer army, meanwhile, has accrued an equally large stockpile supportive of paranormal interpretations.

White Flag of Neutrality

Offering the white flag of peace and neutrality causes no small amount of trepidation. One risks being a target for both sides. In the battle of the paranormal, nobody is permitted to be neutral?  It’s a ‘do or die’ scenario like no other in science.


The blog posts here are written from a dispassionate point of view. My purpose is to create a balanced and even-handed review based on the best contemporary evidence on paranormal claims in science and medicine.

I present here the evidence, both pro and con, explain the relevant psychological processes, present scientific arguments, and eventually produce a final balance sheet.

H J Eysenck’s ‘Unsafe’ Publications Total 148

This post updates the situation regarding publications by Hans J Eysenck that are deemed ‘unsafe’. The 148 publications include 87 publications identified by David F Marks and Roderick D Buchanan and 61 papers in two journals flagged by SAGE Publications on 10 February 2020 (details below).

To date, only fourteen of HJ Eysenck’s 148 suspect papers have been retracted. A list containing  details of 61 of the suspect papers was published more than a year ago.

Why are journals so slow to retract such obviously dubious papers?

Complacent, Complicit Institutions

A large part of the blame lies with King’s College London, where Hans J Eysenck’s Institute is affiliated. The institution has been slow and reluctant to act. KCL conducted a review of Eysenck’s publications but failed to complete the job. A recent editorial with Eysenck’s biographer, Rod D Buchanan, called on KCL to properly complete their review. To date, KCL has given no response.

Equally culpable is the British Psychological Society. The British Psychological Society is the representative body for Psychology and Psychologists in the UK. The Society is  responsible for the promotion of excellence and ethical practice in the science, education, and practical applications of Psychology. As the only professional association of psychologists in Britain, the BPS has refused to do anything at all to censor H J Eysenck’s fraudulent research. How can the British public feel protected from ‘fake news’ and fraud if the Society responsible for policing psychological practice in the UK sticks its head in the sand?  An utter disgrace!

Remember that according to HJE, the connection between smoking and cancer was unproven. Moreover cancer and heart disease can be caused by one’s own personality!

Yet the BPS has done nothing to correct these blatant falsehoods.

To this day, the Society continues to bolster up HJE’s flagging reputation.

The Society’s magazine published a letter claiming that this author’s request for an inquiry into H J Eysenck: “…is representative of the very type of smear campaign and witch-hunting which Eysenck was subjected to previously.”

The British Psychological Society’s complicity in Eysenck’s discredited publication record and its refusal to take any action whatsoever is shameful. It is evident that the BPS is more interested in protecting its own than the British public.

Shared responsibility

The responsibility for H J E’s many suspect publications cannot be laid only at Eysenck’s door.  The many co-authors of the long list of suspect publication were required to vouch for the authenticity of the data, analyses and conclusions when the papers were accepted for publication.

Many of the suspect papers were co-authored with well-known figures in the Psychology discipline including HJE’s second wife, Sybil  B.G Eysenck. Other co-authors include professors holding chairs in the University of London, Professors Adrian Furnham,  and Chris Frith at University College London.  Paul Barrett, was co-director with Hans Eysenck of the Biosignal Lab at the University of London’s Institute of Psychiatry for 14 years, and currently is Chief Research Scientist at Cognadev (UK and SA), and Professor of Psychology at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Another of HJE’s co-authors is Richard Lynn, a former professor of psychology at Ulster University, having had the title withdrawn by the university in 2018, and Editor-in-Chief of the journal Mankind Quarterly, which has been described as a “white supremacist journal”. Hans Eysenck’s eugenicist convictions will be the subject of a later post.


No publications in the two journals founded by HJE have yet been retracted. However, three have been listed in an Expression of Concern: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2020.109855

In spite of the obvious fraud, the journal Personality and Individual Differences, one of the journals founded by HJE, retracts nothing. PAID cannot bring itself to publicly acknowledge that HJE was a charlatan. Many who signed an expression of concern are Eysenck’s co-authors, including Barrett, referred to above. No conflict of interest there then.


Full bibliographic details can be found at the Retraction Watch database: 14 retractions and 64 expressions of concern.

Journals Slow to Act

73 items are pending any response by the relevant publishers. The publishers are listed in the KCL enquiry report as follows:

Professor Roger Pearson (Editor) Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies Council for Social and Economic Studies PO Box 34143 Washing DC 20043, USA (1 paper).

Michelle G. Craske (Editor) Behaviour Research and Therapy Department of Psychology University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) 405 Hilgard Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1563 California, USA (4 papers).

Dr Donald Saklofske Personality and Individual Differences Department of Psychology University of Western Ontario Canada (4 papers).

Jaan Valsiner (Editor-in-Chief) Intergrative Psychological and Behavioral Science Department of Psychology Clark University Worcester, MA 01610-1477, USA (1 paper).

Professor Oi Ling Siu (Editor) International Journal of Stress Management WYL201/1 Dorothy Y L Wong Building Department of Applied Psychology Lingnan University Tuen Mun Hong Kong (1 paper).

Werner Strik (Editor) Neuropsychobiology University Hospital of Psychiatry Waldau Page 8 of 9 CH-3000 Bern 60 Switzerland (1 paper).

Adam S. Radomsky (Editor) Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry L-PY 101-4 Psychology Building 7141 Sherbrooke W. Concordia University in Montreal Canada (1 paper).

Timothy R Elliott (Editor) Journal of Clinical Psychology Education & Human Development Texas A&M University 713A Harrington Office Building (2 papers).

How much longer do these journals need to wait?

Two journals published by SAGE have already listed 13 retractions and expressions of concern on 61 papers. Other journals need to follow suit.

Psychological Reports Expression of Concern


The Journal Editor and SAGE Publishing hereby issue an expression of concern for the following articles:

  1. Eysenck, H. J. (1955). Psychiatric Diagnosis as a Psychological and Statistical Problem. Psychological Reports1(1), 3–17. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1955.1.g.3
  2. Eysenck, S. B. G., & Eysenck, H. J. (1964). “Acquiescence” Response Set in Personality Inventory Items. Psychological Reports14(2), 513–514. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1964.14.2.513
  3. Eysenck, H. J. (1956). Diagnosis and Measurement: A Reply to Loevinger. Psychological Reports2(3), 117–118. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1956.2.3.117
  4. Eysenck, S. B. G., & Eysenck, H. J. (1967). Physiological Reactivity to Sensory Stimulation as a Measure of Personality. Psychological Reports20(1), 45–46. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1967.20.1.45
  5. Sartory, G., & Eysenck, H. J. (1976). Strain Differences in Acquisition and Extinction of Fear Responses in Rats. Psychological Reports38(1), 163–187. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1976.38.1.163
  6. Bruni, P., & Eysenck, H. J. (1976). Structure of Attitudes—An Italian Sample. Psychological Reports38(3), 956–958. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1976.38.3.956
  7. Eysenck, H. J. (1976). Structure of Social Attitudes. Psychological Reports39(2), 463–466. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1976.39.2.463
  8. Eysenck, S. B. G., White, O., & Eysenck, H. J. (1976). Personality and Mental Illness. Psychological Reports39(3), 1011–1022. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1976.39.3.1011
  9. Eysenck, H. J. (1958). The Nature of Anxiety and the Factorial Method. Psychological Reports4(2), 453–454. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1958.4.h.453
  10. Hewitt, J. K., Eysenck, H. J., & Eaves, L. J. (1977). Structure of Social Attitudes after Twenty-Five Years: A Replication. Psychological Reports40(1), 183–188. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1977.40.1.183
  11. Eysenck, S. B. G., & Eysenck, H. J. (1977). Personality Differences between Prisoners and Controls. Psychological Reports40(3_suppl), 1023–1028. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1977.40.3c.1023
  12. Eysenck, H. J. (1977). National Differences in Personality as Related to ABO Blood Group Polymorphism. Psychological Reports41(3_suppl), 1257–1258. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1977.41.3f.1257
  13. Hewitt, J. K., Fulker, D. W., & Eysenck, H. J. (1978). Effect of Strain and Level of Shock on the Behaviour of Rats in PSI Experiments. Psychological Reports42(3_suppl), 1103–1108. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1978.42.3c.1103
  14. Eysenck, S. B. G., & Eysenck, H. J. (1978). Impulsiveness and Venturesomeness: Their Position in a Dimensional System of Personality Description. Psychological Reports43(3_suppl), 1247–1255. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1978.43.3f.1247
  15. Eysenck, H. J. (1979). Personality Factors in a Random Sample of the Population. Psychological Reports44(3_suppl), 1023–1027. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1979.44.3c.1023
  16. Eysenck, H. J. (1980). Psychology of the Scientist: XLIV. Sir Cyril Burt: Prominence versus Personality. Psychological Reports46(3), 893–894. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1980.46.3.893
  17. Eysenck, H. J. (1980). Personality, Marital Satisfaction, and Divorce. Psychological Reports47(3_suppl), 1235–1238. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1980.47.3f.1235
  18. Eysenck, H. J. (1959). Comments on a Test of the Personality-Satiation-Inhibition Theory. Psychological Reports5(2), 395–396. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1959.5.h.395
  19. Eysenck, H. J. (1959). Personality and Verbal Conditioning. Psychological Reports5(2), 570–570. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1959.5.h.570
  20. Eysenck, H. J. (1959). Personality and Problem Solving. Psychological Reports5(3), 592–592. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1959.5.3.592
  21. Eysenck, H. J. (1982). The Biological Basis of Cross-Cultural Differences in Personality: Blood Group Antigens. Psychological Reports51(2), 531–540. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1982.51.2.531
  22. Eysenck, H. J. (1987). Comments on “the Orthogonality of Extraversion and Neuroticism Scales.” Psychological Reports61(1), 50–50. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1987.61.1.50
  23. Eysenck, H. J., & Barrett, P. (1993). The Nature of Schizotypy. Psychological Reports73(1), 59–63. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1993.73.1.59
  24. Eysenck, H. J. (1995). Some Comments on the Gough Socialization Scale. Psychological Reports76(1), 298–298. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1995.76.1.298
  25. Eysenck, H. J., Eysenck, S. B. G., & Barrett, P. (1995). Personality Differences According to Gender. Psychological Reports76(3), 711–716. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1995.76.3.711

Perceptual and Motor Skills Expression of Concern


  1. Frith, C. D., & Eysenck, H. J. (1982). Reminiscence and Learning: One or Many? Perceptual and Motor Skills54(2), 494–494. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1982.54.2.494
  2. Eysenck, H. J., & Eysenck, S. B. G. (1960). Reminiscence on the Spiral After-Efect as a Function of Length of Rest and Number of Pre-Rest Trials. Perceptual and Motor Skills10(2), 93–94. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1960.10.2.93
  3. Eysenck, H. J. (1960). Reminiscence, Extraversion and Neuroticism. Perceptual and Motor Skills11(1), 21–22. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1960.11.1.21
  4. Eysenck, H. J. (1960). Reminiscence as a Function of Rest, Practice, and Personality. Perceptual and Motor Skills11(1), 91-94E. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1960.11.1.91
  5. Eysenck, H. J., & Holland, H. (1960). Length of Spiral After-Effect as a Function of Drive. Perceptual and Motor Skills11(2), 129–130. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1960.11.2.129
  6. Eysenck, H. J. (1960). Reminiscence and Post-Rest Increment after Massed Practice. Perceptual and Motor Skills11(2), 221–222. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1960.11.2.221
  7. Holland, H., & Eysenck, H. J. (1960). Spiral After-Effect as a Function of Length of Stimulation. Perceptual and Motor Skills11(2), 228–228. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1960.11.2.228
  8. Lynn, R., & Eysenck, H. J. (1961). Tolerance for Pain, Extraversion and Neuroticism. Perceptual and Motor Skills12(2), 161–162. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1961.12.2.161
  9. Costello, C. G., & Eysenck, H. J. (1961). Persistence, Personality, and Motivation. Perceptual and Motor Skills12(2), 169–170. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1961.12.2.169
  10. Eysenck, H. J., & Willett, R. A. (1962). Cue Utilization as a Function of Drive: An Experimental Study. Perceptual and Motor Skills15(1), 229–230. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1962.15.1.229
  11. Eysenck, H. J., & Willett, R. A. (1962). Performance and Reminiscence on a Symbol Substitution Task as a Function of Drive. Perceptual and Motor Skills15(2), 389–390. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1962.15.2.389
  12. Eysenck, H. J. (1962). Figural After-Effects, Personality, and Inter-Sensory Comparisons. Perceptual and Motor Skills15(2), 405–406. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1962.15.2.405
  13. Eysenck, H. J. (1964). Involuntary Rest Pauses in Tapping as a Function of Drive and Personality. Perceptual and Motor Skills18(1), 173–174. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1964.18.1.173
  14. Eysenck, H. J. (1966). On the Dual Function of Consolidation. Perceptual and Motor Skills22(1), 273–274. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1966.22.1.273
  15. Eysenck, H. J. (1967). Factor-Analytic Study of the Maitland Graves Design Judgment Test. Perceptual and Motor Skills24(1), 73–74. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1967.24.1.73
  16. Eysenck, S. B. G., & Eysenck, H. J. (1967). Salivary Response to Lemon Juice as a Measure of Introversion. Perceptual and Motor Skills24(3_suppl), 1047–1053. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1967.24.3c.1047
  17. Eysenck, H. J. (1969). A New Theory of Post-Rest Upswing or “Warm-up” in Motor Learning. Perceptual and Motor Skills28(3), 992–994. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1969.28.3.992
  18. Eysenck, H. J. (1970). An Application of the Maitland Graves Design Judgment Test to Professional Artists. Perceptual and Motor Skills30(2), 589–590. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1970.30.2.589
  19. Eysenck, S. B. G., Russell, T., & Eysenck, H. J. (1970). Extraversion, Intelligence, and Ability to Draw a Person. Perceptual and Motor Skills30(3), 925–926. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1970.30.3.925
  20. Eysenck, H. J. (1971). Relation between Intelligence and Personality. Perceptual and Motor Skills32(2), 637–638. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1971.32.2.637
  21. Eysenck, H. J., & Iwawaki, S. (1971). Cultural Relativity in Aesthetic Judgments: An Empirical Study. Perceptual and Motor Skills32(3), 817–818. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1971.32.3.817
  22. Eysenck, S. B. G., & Eysenck, H. J. (1971). Attitudes to Sex, Personality and LIE Scale Scores. Perceptual and Motor Skills33(1), 216–218. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1971.33.1.216
  23. Wilson, G. D., Tunstall, O. A., & Eysenck, H. J. (1971). Individual Differences in Tapping Performance as a Function of Time on the Task. Perceptual and Motor Skills33(2), 375–378. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1971.33.2.375
  24. Eysenck, H. J., & Eysenck, S. B. G. (1971). The Orthogonality of Psychoticism and Neuroticism: A Factorial Study. Perceptual and Motor Skills33(2), 461–462. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1971.33.2.461
  25. Eysenck, H. J. (1972). Preference Judgments for Polygons, Designs, and Drawings. Perceptual and Motor Skills34(2), 396–398. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1972.34.2.396
  26. Bone, R. N., & Eysenck, H. J. (1972). Extraversion, Field-Dependence, and the Stroop Test. Perceptual and Motor Skills34(3), 873–874. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1972.34.3.873
  27. Eysenck, H. J., & Soueif, M. (1972). An Empirical Test of the Theory of Sexual Symbolism. Perceptual and Motor Skills35(3), 945–946. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1972.35.3.945
  28. Allsopp, J. F., & Eysenck, H. J. (1974). Personality as a Determinant of Paired-Associates Learning. Perceptual and Motor Skills39(1), 315–324. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1974.39.1.315
  29. Götz, K. O., Lynn, R., Borisy, A. R., & Eysenck, H. J. (1979). A New Visual Aesthetic Sensitivity Test: I. Construction and Psychometric Properties. Perceptual and Motor Skills49(3), 795–802. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1979.49.3.795
  30. Iwawaki, S., Eysenck, H. J., & Götz, K. O. (1979). A New Visual Aesthetic Sensitivity Test (VAST): II. Cross-Cultural Comparison between England and Japan. Perceptual and Motor Skills49(3), 859–862. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1979.49.3.859
  31. Chan, J., Eysenck, H. J., & Götz, K. O. (1980). A New Visual Aesthetic Sensitivity Test: III. Cross-Cultural Comparison between Hong Kong Children and Adults, and English and Japanese Samples. Perceptual and Motor Skills50(3_suppl), 1325–1326. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1980.50.3c.1325
  32. Frith, C. D., & Eysenck, H. J. (1981). Reminiscence—Psychomotor Learning: A Reply to Coppage and Payne. Perceptual and Motor Skills53(3), 842–842. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1981.53.3.842
  33. Chan, J. W. C., Eysenck, H. J., & Lynn, R. (1991). Reaction Times and Intelligence among Hong Kong Children. Perceptual and Motor Skills72(2), 427–433. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1991.72.2.427
  34. Lynn, R., Chan, J. W. C., & Eysenck, H. J. (1991). Reaction Times and Intelligence in Chinese and British Children. Perceptual and Motor Skills72(2), 443–452. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1991.72.2.443
  35. Eysenck, H. J., & Furnham, A. (1993). Personality and the Barron-Welsh Art Scale. Perceptual and Motor Skills76(3), 837–838. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1993.76.3.837
  36. Eysenck, H. J. (1959). Personality and the Estimation of Time. Perceptual and Motor Skills9(3), 405–406. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1959.9.3.405


The list of unsafe publications grows and grows. How many more can there be? And when will the scientific record finally be corrected?






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.

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:


Polyfilla Science

Screen Shot 2019-11-04 at 19.50.03.pngGap Filling

Like any other science, Psychology contain myriads of variables, A,B,C…N…X,Y,Z.  An established strategy for developing new research is for the investigator to identity ‘gaps’ in the field and to set about filling those gaps with correlational and experimental studies. The latter involve almost every possible permutation and combination of variables.

The gap filling approach is one strategy for keeping productivity high but, often, it is at the expense of developing new theories. There are more than 5 million publications listed by Google Scholar that address a gap in the literature. Another five million address theoretical integration.

Guaranteed Results

The academic world is based on quantitative measures of performance and the number of publications a researcher can claim matters [1]. This drive towards publications leads to what I call ‘Polyfilla Science’. You’ve used it, I’ve used it, everybody’s used it. It does the job perfectly well.  For every ‘hole’ investigators fill, they are almost guaranteed a peer-reviewed publication. ‘Polyfilla Science’ exists on an industrial scale, keeping hundreds of thousands of scientists busily occupied in hot competition. The ‘winners’ of the Polyfilla competition are the ones who tick the highest number of boxes and harvest the most citations.[2]

‘Polyfilla Science’ can be represented as a multidimensional matrix of cells where the task of science is viewed as filling every last cell in the matrix (see Figure).  This method of doing science is more akin to a fairground shooting gallery than to theory-driven science.  In the absence of theory, many researchers use a Polyfilla ‘shotgun’ by testing a dozen or more “hypotheses” in one shot. Popular though it is, ‘Polyfilla Science’ isn’t the only game in town, and a theory-driven approach is also available.  Theory is used to identify the principles behind questions that need answering in a process of confirmation and disconfirmation of predictions. When one considers the fact that there are one hundred thousand psychology majors in the US alone, all needing a research project, it is no wonder the Polyfilla approach is so popular.

Never-ending Process

It doesn’t matter how may gaps and holes you plug, new ones always appear.

In comparison to the scientific discoveries in other fields, Psychology has made no world-changing discoveries in the last 50 years. By this, I mean discoveries that are worth telling your grandchildren. In my opinion, the lack of significant theoretical developments, and the Polyfilla Approach, are two of the main reasons for this lack of progress.  All this needs to change.

[1] Numbers of publications, citations, grant monies, prizes, promotions and awards.

[2] One of the world’s most published and ambitious ‘Polyfilla’ psychologists told me a self-effacing story about the occasion he went for an interview at the University of Oxford. A member of the panel asked: “Dr X, you have a huge number of publications. But what does it all mean?” He didn’t know the answer and got rejected for the post.

[3] Polycell Multi-Purpose Polyfilla Ready Mixed, 1 Kg, i#1 best seller on Amazon.co.uk, 16 May 2019.


A New Ponzo Illusion

Most visual illusions are produced using carefully contrived drawings or gadgets to fool the visual system into thinking impossible things.  Recently,  waiting at a train station, I encountered a real-life Ponzo illusion.

The Illusion

The traditional form of the Ponzo illusion is produced by drawing a pair of receding railway lines. The context suggests different depths in the drawing. An object towards the top of the drawing appears larger than an identical object near the bottom of the drawing.  Using a principle of size constancy, the visual system estimates the size of any object as its retinal size multiplied by the assumed distance. Thus, the ‘most distant’ of the two identical yellow lines appears to be longer.


The Setting

The setting of this new Ponzo illusion is a railway station situated at Vitrolles Airport, Marseille (see photo below).  The station has glass panelled shelters on the platforms on each side. The glass panel at the front of each shelter displays two rows of grey rectangles. Apart from their decorative function, one assumes that these rows of rectangles are intended to help prevent people from walking into the glass panel as they move in and around the shelter. The photo below shows the arrangement of the two rows of rectangles on the shelter.


The Stimuli

The stimuli for the illusion consist of rectangles that are slightly longer than a credit card, approximately 10.0 cm long x 1.5 cm wide with a separation of about 3.0 cm between successive rectangles. The plate glass window is about 5 mm thick and is marked with rectangles on both sides of the glass in perfect alignment so that a 3-D effect is created indicating a false sense of solidity to these rectangles. This ‘3-D look’ may strengthen the Ponzo effect illustrated below.


The Illusion

The illusion is demonstrated in the photo below.  Two people sitting directly in front of the shelter are waiting for a train. The upper set of rectangles appears as a set of columns positioned along the railway lines at a distance of approximately 7 metres in front of the two passengers. In this case, the upper set of rectangles appear to have a height of around 2-3 metres. The lower set of rectangles are perceived at their correct location and size on the plate glass window, behind the two passengers. The lower set are actually physically smaller, owing to the camera angle, but the illusion exaggerates the size difference enormously.


Further illustration of the effect indicates how the brain scales the stimuli to the context. When the rectangles are projected onto the opposite platform they appear huge – almost as high as the lamp post of around 5 metres.

When the rectangles are projected onto the nearby platform, however, they appear proportionately smaller (1.0-1.5 metres).


IMG-9389.JPGOwing to the camera angles, the actual size of the rectangles in the upper picture is larger (5-10%) than in the lower picture, but nowhere near the illusory ‘expansion’ that takes place when they are projected by the brain to the opposite platform.

Blocking the Distance Cues

The magnitude of the Ponzo illusion becomes somewhat indeterminate when the distances cues were fortuitously blocked by a passing freight train. In this case the rectangles are ‘drawn into’ the scale of the passing wagons, stretching in size beyond the appearance when the wagons are not there.



The Ponzo illusion can be most easily explained in terms of linear perspective. The rectangles looks longer when they are projected to the distance of the opposite platform because the brain automatically interprets them as being further away, so we see them as longer. An object located farther away would have to be larger than a nearby object to produce a retinal image of the same size.


The more visual cues surrounding the two vertical lines, the more powerful the illusion. The passing freight train obliterated some of the distance cues and so the length of the lines were more difficult to assess.