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Marie Jahoda

JAHODA, MARIE (1907–2001), British social psychologist and activist. Jahoda was born in Vienna to Karl and Betty (Probst) Jahoda. Although the family could trace its Jewish roots to the 18th century, her parents, who were active social democrats, had assimilated into Austrian society and considered themselves to be without religious affiliation. Jahoda was briefly to married Paul Lazarsfeld, a young instructor at the Psychological Institute at the University of Vienna where she did her Ph.D. (they were divorced in 1934). Their only child, Lotte Lazarsfeld Bailyn, born in 1930, became a professor of management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Jahoda's first book, Die Arbeitslosen von Marienthal (Marienthal: The Sociography of an Unemployed Community, 1971), written with Hans Zeisel and Lazarsfeld, was published in German in 1933 without attribution, because the publishers feared that the authors' Jewish names would attract unwanted attention. Nevertheless, most of the copies of the first edition were burned. This book is considered a classic empirical study of the psychological consequences of prolonged unemployment in a town that had been a synonym for industrial development. Jahoda, who had been a leader in the Austrian socialist youth movement since her teens, served a prison term for her political opinions in 1936–37; she was released only through the intervention of the international community on condition that she leave the country.

In 1937, Jahoda emigrated to England, where she held a variety of positions and conducted research on unemployed miners, voluntary societies, and the transition from school to work. She also became a leading member of the Austrian Socialists in Great Britain and ran the secret radio station Radio Rotes Wien. Near the end of World War II, Jahoda came to the United States. She worked at Columbia University with the American Jewish Committee on efforts to reduce prejudice through persuasive communications and later became a professor of social psychology at New York University and a member of its Research Center for Human Relations, a group devoted to action research. During this period, she was the senior author of a widely used book, Research Methods in Social Relations, published in 1951 with the sponsorship of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI).

Throughout her life, Jahoda remained deeply committed to the use of empirical research for bettering the human condition. During her relatively brief career in the United States, she was deeply involved in the two major issues that dominated the political climate of those years, the civil rights movement and McCarthyism. She investigated the psychological effects of the suppression of political opinion by loyalty oaths, blacklisting in the entertainment industry, and the impact of security measures on the climate of thought of civil servants. Jahoda was a board member of the American Civil Liberties Union and was elected the first woman president of SPSSI in 1951; a woman was not elected again until 1971.

In 1958, Jahoda returned to Great Britain to marry Austen Albu, a Labour Member of Parliament, and became a professor of psychology at Brunel University. In 1965, she moved to Sussex University as a professor of social psychology. In the years after her 1972 retirement, she wrote two books, co-edited three others, and published 23 articles and book chapters. Her last and most prized work, Louise Labé: Vierundzwanzig Sonette in drei Sprachen (1997), consisted of her translations into English of the sonnets of Louise Labé, a 16th century French proto-feminist poet.

Jahoda's many honors included the Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Public Interest from the American Psychological Association in 1979 and the Kurt Lewin Memorial Award from the SPSSI. Jahoda also received awards from the British Psychological Society and the Commander of the British Empire medal, personally bestowed by Queen Elizabeth II. An academic chair in her name was established in Germany.


American Psychologist, 35 (1980): 74–76; S.W. Cook. "Marie Jahoda," in: A.N. O'Connell and N.F. Russo (eds.), Women in Psychology: A Bio-Biographical Sourcebook (1990), 207–19; "Marie Jahoda (1907–2001)," in: G. Stevens and S. Gardner, The Women of Psychology, vol. 2 (1982); R.K. Unger, in: American Psychologist 56 (2001), 1040–41.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.