The welfare trait: Hans Eysenck, personality and social issues

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Inspired by Hans Eysenck's belief that personality research can provide insights on societal problems, this article summarises a theory – the Welfare Trait – which attempts to explain the tendency of the welfare state to erode work motivation. This theory stems from the discovery that exposure to disadvantage during childhood promotes the development of employment-resistant personality characteristics. If true, this discovery matters because it means a welfare state which sets up perverse incentives that cause extra children to be born into disadvantaged households may harm the prospects of the nation by shifting its personality profile towards greater employment-resistance. Although still in need of more refined data, the Welfare Trait theory conforms to Hans Eysenck's belief that psychology in general, and personality psychology in particular, is germane to addressing important issues of widespread social impact. However, as in Eysenck's time, discussion of such ‘controversial’ issues leads to severe criticism and personal vilification, facilitated today by the ease of communication via social media (e.g., Twitter).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-178
Number of pages7
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Early online date9 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016


  • Hans Eysenck
  • Personality
  • The welfare state
  • Reproduction
  • Employment-resistance
  • Work-motivation
  • Twitter


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