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Paul Watzlawick
Full name Paul Watzlawick
Born July 25 1921
Villach, Austria
Died March 31, 2007 (2007-04-01) (aged 85)
Palo Alto, California United States
Region Communication theorist
School Communication theory
Main interests Communication Theory and Radical Constructivism
Notable ideas "One Cannot Not Communicate", ...

Paul Watzlawick (July 25, 1921 - March 31, 2007) was an Austrian-American psychologist and philosopher. A theoretician in communication theory and radical constructivism, he has commented in the fields of family therapy and general psychotherapy. He was one of the most influential figures at the Mental Research Institute and lived and worked in Palo Alto, California, until his death at the age of 85.

Contents

Life

After he graduated from high school in 1939 in his hometown of Villach, Austria, Watzlawick studied philosophy and philology at the Università Ca' Foscari Venice and earned a doctor of philosophy degree in 1949. He then studied at the Carl Jung Institute in Zurich, where he received a degree in analytical psychotherapy 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 (MRI). In 1967 and thereafter he taught psychiatry at Stanford University.

Work

At the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto, California Watzlawick followed in the footsteps of Gregory Bateson and the research team (Don D. Jackson, John Weakland, Jay Haley) responsible for introducing what became known as the "double bind" theory of schizophrenia. Watzlawick's 1967 work based on Bateson's thinking, Pragmatics of Human Communication (with Don Jackson and Janet Beavin), became a cornerstone work of communication theory. Other scientific contributions include works on radical constructivism and most importantly his theory on communication. He was active in the field of family therapy.

Watzlawick was one of the three founding members of the Brief Therapy Center at MRI. In 1974, members of the Center published a major work on their brief approach, Change, Principles of Problem Formation and Problem Resolution (Watzlawick, Weakland, Fisch).

Watzlawick defines five (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. All of these axioms are derived from the work of Gregory Bateson, much of which is collected in Steps to an Ecology of Mind (1972).

  • 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 classifies 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.

Publications

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

  • Pragmatics of Human Communication, 1967, OCLC 168614
  • Change (with John Weakland and Richard Fisch), 1974, OCLC 730810
  • How Real is Real?, 1976, OCLC 1818442
  • The Language of Change, 1977, OCLC 3609867
  • Gebrauchsanweisung für Amerika, 1978
  • The Situation is Hopeless, but not Serious, 1983, OCLC 9464987
  • The Invented Reality: How Do We Know What We Believe We Know? (Contributions to constructivism), 1984, OCLC 9412760
  • Ultra-Solutions, or, How to Fail Most Successfully, 1988, OCLC 16682320

Legacy

Paul Watzlawick theory had great impact on the creation of the four sides model by Friedemann Schulz von Thun.

See also

External links

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Simple English

Paul Watzlawick PhD (July 25, 1921March 31, 2007) was a theoretician in Communication Theory and Radical Constructivism. He also commented in the fields of family therapy and general psychotherapy. He lived and worked in California until his death in 2007 in Palo Alto.

He formulated 5 axioms. They are:

  1. It is not possible to not communicate. - Every behavior is some kind of communication.
  2. Every communication has a content. In addition, there is 'metainformation', which says how the communicator wants to be understood
  3. All parters involved in a communication process also interpret their own behaviour during communication
  4. Human communication involves both verbal and non-verbal communication. In addition to the spoken words, there are is also a non-spoken part (gestures, behavior, intonation..) which is part of the communication.
  5. Communication between humans is either symmertric or complementary. This is based on whether the relationship of those communicating is based on differences or parity

Works

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:

  • Invented Reality: How Do We Know What We Believe We Know? (Contributions to constructivism)
  • 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"

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