Twenty-five Character Traits of Eccentrics

I have always been eccentric, but I have only come to understand myself as an eccentric through the research of David Weeks, Ph.D, a psychologist working in Scotland, who has done, as far as I know, the world’s first actual research into eccentricity. He started his research in the mid-eighties, and has recently published a book entitled “The Gifts of Eccentrics”, a fascinating read.

In the last chapter of the book, he effectively summarizes his research into his Twenty-five Character Traits of Eccentrics. This list, and a lot of meditation, has helped me to understand who I am.

I hope it may help eccentrics out there understand themselves, if they need it.

  • Enduring non-conformity;
  • Creative;
  • Strongly motivated by an exceedingly powerful curiosity and related exploratory behaviour;
  • An enduring and distinct feeling of differentness from others;
  • Idealism, wanting to make the world a better place and the people in it happier;
  • Happily obsessed with a number of long-lasting preoccupations (usually about five or six);
  • Intelligent, in the upper fifteen per cent of the population on tests of intelligence; many notable eccentrics proved singularly bright.
  • Opinionated and outspoken, convinced of being right and that the rest of the of the world is out of step with them;
  • Non-competitive;
  • Not necessarily in need of reassurance or reinforcement from the rest of society;
  • Unusual eating habits and living arrangements;
  • Not particularly interested in the opinions or company of other people, except perhaps in order to persuade them to their contrary point of view;
  • Possessed of a mischievous sense of humour, charm, whimsy and wit;
  • More frequently an eldest or an only child;
  • Eccentricity observed in at least 36% of detailed family histories, usually a grandparent, aunt, or uncle. (It should be noted that the family history method of estimating hereditary similarities and resemblances usually provides rather conservative estimates.)
  • Eccentrics prefer to talk about their thoughts rather than their feelings. There is a frequent use of the psychological defence mechanisms of rationalization and intellectualisation.
  • Slightly abrasive;
  • Midlife changes in career or lifestyle;
  • Feelings of “invisibility”, which means that they believed other people did not seem to hear them or see them, or take their ideas seriously;
  • Feel that others can only take them in small doses;
  • Feel that others have stolen, or would like to steal, their ideas. In some cases, this was well-founded.
  • Disliked small talk or other apparently inconsequential conversation;
  • A degree of social awkwardness;
  • More likely to be single, separated or divorced, or multiply separated or divorced;
  • A poor speller, in relation to their above average general intellectual functioning.

(The first five of these characteristics are the most important and apply to virtually every eccentric. Nonconformity is the principal defining trait)

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