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Professional Psychology: Debating Chamber · Psychology Journals · Psychologists

Richard S. Lazarus (born March 3, 1922, in New York) was a psychologist who began rising to prominence in the 1960s, when behaviorists like B. F. Skinner held sway over psychology and explanations for human behavior were often pared down to rudimentary motives like reward and punishment. In that world, love or sadness existed, but were considered more ornament than underpinning.

Dr. Lazarus was a professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley who was named by American Psychologist as one of the most influential psychologists in the field. He died on November 24, 2002 at the age of 80. He was a pioneer in the study of emotion and stress, especially their relation to cognition.

He was well renowned for his theory of cognitive-mediational theory within emotion.[1]

Dr. Lazarus was an unabashed promoter of the importance of emotion, especially what he described as the marriage between emotion and thought. His views put him at odds not only with behaviorism but also with a movement that began toward the end of his career: attempts to explain all human behavior by looking at the structure of the brain.

He was very opposed to reductionist approaches to understanding human behavior.

At the heart of Dr. Lazarus's theory was what he called appraisal. Before emotion occurs, he argued, people make an automatic, often unconscious, assessment of what is happening and what it may mean for them or those they care about. From that perspective, emotion becomes not just rational but a necessary component of survival.

Dr. Lazarus liked to take on topics like hope and gratitude. He was perhaps best known for his work on coping, gaining attention for studies that showed that patients who engaged in denial about the seriousness of their situation did better than those who were more "realistic." He also found that stress often had less to do with a person's actual situation than with how the person perceived the strength of his own resources.[2]

He wrote 13 books, five after he retired in 1991. One book, Passion and Reason: Making Sense of Our Emotions, was written with his wife of 57 years, Bernice Lazarus. They had two children, son, David, and a daughter, Nancy.

See also



  • Lazarus, R. (1961).Adjustment and Personality
  • Lazarus, R. (1964).The Nature of Psychological Inquiry
  • Lazarus, R. (1966).Psychologicai stress and the coping process. New York: McGraw-Hill,
  • Lazarus, R. (1969).Pattern of Adjustment and Human Effectiveness
  • Lazarus, R. (1979).Personality
  • Lazarus, R. (1984).Stress, Appraisal and Coping
  • Lazarus, R. (1991).Emotion and Adaptation
  • Lazarus, R. (1996).Passion and Reason: Making Sense of Our Emotions
  • Lazarus, R. (1998).The Life and Work of an Eminent Psychologist
  • Lazarus, R. (2005).Coping with Aging
  • Lazarus, R. (2006).Stress and Amotion: A New Synthesis

Book Chapters


  • Lazarus, R. (1980) Thoughts on the relations between cognition and emotion, American Psychologist 37: 1019-24.
  • Lazarus, R.S. and McCleary, R.A. (1951) Autonomic discrimination without awareness: a study of subception, Psychological Review 58: 113-22.

External links