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Paul F. Lazarsfeld

LAZARSFELD, PAUL F. (1901–1976), U.S. sociologist. Born in Vienna in 1901, Lazarsfeld studied mathematics and psychology at the University of Vienna and came to the United States in 1933 on a Rockefeller fellowship. He became a director of the Research Center at the University of Newark in 1936, and director of the newly established office of Radio Research at the University of Princeton in 1937. After 1940 he was professor and chairman of the Department of Sociology at Columbia University, where he remained until 1970. In addition, he was president of the American Sociological Association. In 1945 Lazarsfeld became director of the Bureau of Applied Social Research at Columbia, a pioneering venture that has become the model for a number of similar research institutes at American universities. The published works of Lazarsfeld and his collaborators deal with public opinion research, and generally with quantitative research and its techniques. Latent structure analysis, which was developed by Lazarsfeld as a major tool in attitude survey research, assumes that regularities of behavior exist which are not immediately recognizable but do account for the manifest relationship between any two or more items on a test. In the field of communications research, Lazarsfeld developed quantitative content analysis, as well as the "panel" technique; the latter involves the repeated interviewing on the same subject matter of a given sample or panel. Lazarsfeld's early study, Die Arbeitslosen von Marienthal (1933), had remained a minor classic; his early American publication "The Art of Asking Why?" (National Marketing Review (1935), likewise, is of a pioneering character. Latent Structure Analysis was published in 1960. Lazarsfeld's most important publication in the field of public opinion research is The People's Choice (1944), an analysis of the decisions that determine the outcome of an election campaign.

Among other publications of which Lazarsfeld was author or coauthor are Radio and the Printed Page (1940), Radio Listening in America (1948), Continuities in Social Research (1950), Voting (1954), The Language of Social Research (1955), Personal Influence (1955), The Academic Mind (1958), The Uses of Sociology (1967), Latent Structure Analysis (1968), Qualitative Analysis (1972), Main Trends in Sociology (1973), Views from the Socially Sensitive Seventies (1973), and An Introduction to Applied Sociology (1975). Lazarsfeld published an autobiographical account of his role in the creation of social research institutes under the title "An Episode in the History of Social Research: A Memoir" in the second volume of Perspectives in American History (1968).


Current Biography Yearbook 1964 (1964), 250–3. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: R. Boudon (ed.), On Social Research and Its Language (1993); P.K. Lazarsfeld, The Varied Sociology of Paul F. Lazarsfeld (1982); R. Merton, Qualitative and Quantitative Social Research: Papers in Honor of Paul F. Lazarsfeld (1979).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.