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Professor Michael Argyle (August 11, 1925, Nottingham – September 6, 2002) was one of the best known English social psychologists of the twentieth century. He spent most of his career at the University of Oxford, and worked on numerous topics. Throughout his career, he showed strong preferences for experimental methods in social psychology, having little time for alternative approaches such as discourse analysis.


Michael Argyle was born on August 11, 1925. He studied mathematics at university and served in the Second World War, later going on to gain a First in Experimental Psychology from the University of Cambridge in 1950. Two years later, he became the first lecturer in social psychology at the University of Oxford. At the time, Oxford University was, along with the London School of Economics, one of only two universities in the United Kingdom to have a department of social psychology. Argyle lectured for many years at Oxford University as Reader in Social Psychology. After his retirement, he became Professor Emeritus at Oxford Brookes University. One of the co-founders of the journal British Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, Argyle regularly attended social psychology conferences, and had a great passion for Scottish country dancing.

Argyle died September 6 2002 at the age of 77 of injuries suffered in a swimming accident, from which he never fully recovered.


Argyle made contributions to many fields in psychology, including:

Nonverbal communication

Some of Argyle's best-known contributions were to this field. He was especially interested in gaze. One of his best-known books germane to this field, The Psychology of Interpersonal Behaviour, became a best-seller....

The Psychology of Religion

Argyle, a committed Christian, published empirical works on the psychology of religion. His early work in this field was summarized in his book Religious Behaviour (1958). He later collaborated with Benjman Beit-Hallahmi to produce a later book, "The Psychology of Religious Beliefs, Behaviour and Experience" (1997). Both books show Argyle's commitment to empiricism in psychology, and list results of surveys into topics such as beliefs in the afterlife or frequencies of religious experience in the general population.

The Psychology of Happiness

One of Argyle's most notable later contributions was to the psychology of happiness. Keen that more research should be done in this field, he published "The Psychology of Happiness" in 1987, 2nd edition 2001. In this book he listed and discussed empirical findings on happiness, including that happiness is indeed promoted by relationships, sex, eating, exercise, music, success, etc., but probably not by wealth.

The Psychology of Social Class

Although social class is a concept largely studied by sociologists, Argyle's later work showed increasing interest in promotion of socio-psychological perspective on social class. Differences in religious involvement across social class and patterns of social relationship across social class are areas of interest to social psychologists here, and these fields show Argyle was keen to link this area to other areas which he had studied.



  • The scientific study of social behaviour (1957)ISBN 0837171083
  • Religious Behaviour (1958)
  • Training managers (1962; with Trevor Smith)
  • Psychology and social problems (1964)ISBN 0416272401
  • The psychology of interpersonal behaviour (1994). Penguin.ISBN 0140172742
  • Social interaction (1969)
  • Skills with people : a guide for managers (1973; with Elizabeth Sidney & Margaret Brown)
  • The social psychology of work (1974)ISBN 0140134727
  • Bodily Communication (1975). Routledge.ISBN 0415051142
  • Gaze and mutual gaze (1976; with Mark Cook)
  • Social skills and mental health (1978; with Peter Trower, Bridget Bryant and John Marzillier)
  • Person to person : ways of communicating (1979; with Peter Trower)ISBN 0063180987
  • Psychology of Social Situations (1981); with Adrian Furnham & Jean Ann Graham ISBN 0080237193
  • The Psychology of Happiness (1987)ISBN 0415226651
  • Cooperation : the basis of sociability (1990)ISBN 0415035465
  • The social psychology of everyday life (1992)ISBN 0415010721
  • The Psychology of Social Class (1994)
  • The Social Psychology of Leisure (1996)
  • The Psychology of Religious Beliefs, Behaviour and Experience (1997; with Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi)
  • The Psychology of Money (1998; with Adrian Furnham)ISBN 0415146062
  • Psychology and Religion: An Introduction(1999). Routledge.ISBN 0415189071
  • Social relationships. ISBN 1854332511

Book chapters

  • Argyle, M. (1981) The contribution of social interaction research to social skills training. In: D. Wine and M.D. Smye (eds) Social Competence, New York Guildford Press.
  • Argyle, M. (1984). Social skills and the analysis of situations and conversations. In C. R. Hollin & P. Trower (Orgs.), Handbook of social skills training: clinical applications and new directions (pp.185-216). Nova York: Pergamon Press.


  • Argyle, M., Alkema, F. and Gilmour, R. (1971) The communication of friendly and hostile attitudes by verbal and non-verbal signals, European JournaL of Social Psychology 1:385-402.
  • Argyle, M. and Crossland, J. (1987) The dimensions of positive emotions, British Journal of Social Psychology 26:127-37.
  • Argyle, M. and Henderson, M. (1984) The rules of friendship, Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 1:211-37.
  • Argyle, M., Lalljee, M. and Cook, M. (1968) The effects of visibility on interaction in a dyad, Human Relations 21: 3-17.

Further reading

Robinson, P. (2003). In Memoriam: Michael Argyle. Social Psychological Review, 5 (1) 3-7.


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