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Paul Watzlawick

Paul Watzlawick PhD (* July 25, 1921 in Villach, Austria) is one of the world's leading theoreticians in Communication Theory and Radical Constructivism and very important inspiration in the field of family therapy and general psychotherapy. He is living and working in California.


After he graduated from high school in 1939 in Villach, Paul Watzlawick studied psychology and philology at the University of Venice and graduated in 1949. He then worked at the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich, where he received an additional diploma in 1954. In 1957 he continued his researching career at the University of El Salvador.

In 1960, Don. D. Jackson arranged for him to come to Palo Alto to do research at the Mental Research Institute of Palo Alto. Beginning in 1967 he has taught psychiatry at Stanford University. As of 2005 Watzlawick is still living and working in California.


In Palo Alto, Watzlawick and his colleagues (most notably Gregory Bateson) developed the Double Bind theory. Other scientific contributions include works on radical constructivism and most importantly his theory on communication. Both he and Gregory Bateson have been a very important inspiration in the field of family therapy.

He defines 5 basic axioms in his theory on communication that are necessary to have a functioning communication between two individuals. If one of these axioms is somehow disturbed, communication might fail.

  • One Cannot Not Communicate (Man kann nicht nicht kommunizieren): Every behaviour is a kind of communication. Because behaviour does not have a counterpart (there is no anti-behaviour), it is not possible not to communicate.
  • Every communication has a content and relationship aspect such that the latter clasisifies the former and is therefore a metacommunication.: This means that all communication includes, apart from the plain meaning of words, more information - information on how the talker wants to be understood and how he himself sees his relation to the receiver of information.
  • The nature of a relationship is dependent on the punctuation of the partners communication procedures: Both the talker and the receiver of information structure the communication flow differently and therefore interpret their own behaviour during communicating as merely a reaction on the other's behaviour (i.e. every partner thinks the other one is the cause of a specific behaviour). Human communication cannot be desolved into plain causation and reaction strings, communication rather appears to be cyclic.
  • Human communication involves both digital and analog modalities: Communication does not involve the merely spoken words (digital communication), but non-verbal and analog-verbal communication as well.
  • Inter-human communication procedures are either symmetric or complementary, depending on whether the relationship of the partners is based on differences or parity.

Watzlawick is author of 18 books (in 85 foreign language editions) and more than 150 book articles and book chapters. Books he has written or on which he has collaborated include

  • Pragmatics of Human Communication,
  • The Situation is Hopeless, but not Serious,
  • Ultra-Solutions: How to Fail Most Successfully,
  • How Real is Real?
  • "Change"
  • "The Language of Change"

See also

  • List of Austrian Scientists
  • List of Austrians

External links

de:Paul Watzlawick es:Paul Watzlawick fr:Paul Watzlawick pt:Paul Watzlawick sr:Пол Вацлавик

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