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Psychoticism: Definition & Characteristics

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  • 0:00 Does Psychoticism Equal Crazy?
  • 0:30 Definition of Psychoticism
  • 2:51 Psychoticism and Creativity
  • 3:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Emily Cummins
This lesson covers the definition of psychoticism, as developed in the 3-part personality model of the psychologist Hans Eysenck. The lesson also focuses on the important distinction between psychoticism and psychosis.

Does Psychoticism Equal Crazy?

Have you ever said to a friend, 'you're crazy,' or heard someone say that his neighbor is a psycho? These were probably said in jest, and although we have many colloquial uses for these words, there is actually a very particular definition that psychologists use (and chances are your friend is not really crazy). This lesson will cover the definition of psychoticism, as it relates to the work of the German-British personality psychologist Hans Eysenck.

Definition of Psychoticism

Psychologists have a particular way of using the term 'psychotic' that extends beyond our everyday use. Specifically, the psychologist Hans Eysenck developed the term psychoticism to explain particular behavior and personality traits. But first, it might be useful to back up a little bit. Psychoticism is actually part of Eysenck's 3-part theory of personality, which also includes extraversion and neuroticism.

Psychoticism is defined by Eysenck as a personality type that is prone to take risks, might engage in anti-social behaviors, impulsiveness, or non-conformist behavior. Extraversion includes outgoing or very social behavior. Think of someone who is always the life of the party. This person is probably an extrovert. Neuroticism is a personality trait that includes anxious and nervous behavior and a frequent feeling of fear or worry. This became known as the PEN model. Eysenck believed this to be the basis for all human personalities, and each person has varying degrees of each of these qualities.

Eysenck's definition of psychoticism is related to the psychological qualities that one might find in a person who is psychotic, or experiencing psychosis. This is much different than the friend who called another friend a psycho! Broadly, psychosis is a condition characterized by being very detached from reality. People who are psychotic might experience delusions or hallucinations and might hurt themselves or others. Psychosis is caused by certain diseases or things like brain tumors, but psychosis can also be induced through the use of certain drugs or alcohol.

Now, does everyone who exhibits some of the qualities that Eysenck identifies as psychoticism become a psychotic? Not necessarily. Rather, Eysenck suggested that these individuals might be more susceptible to becoming psychotic, but it was not a certain outcome. According to Eysenck, psychoticism occurs on a scale, or continuum. In other words, there are varying degrees to which someone might exhibit characteristics of psychoticism. Only those who score very, very high on the scale might be considered as having some degree of psychosis.

Psychoticism and Creativity

That's a little misleading, but Eysenck did have an interesting take on the relationship between psychoticism and creativity. He argued that people who are considered very creative or innovative thinkers score much higher on scales measuring psychoticism. In fact, Eysenck found that the psychoticism score of some very creative people is as high as people diagnosed with psychosis.

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