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Paul Watzlawick

Paul Watzlawick

Paul Watzlawick was an Austrian American psychologist and philosopher born on July 25, 1921. His hometown was Villach, Austria; he graduated from high school in 1939. At the University of Venice, he earned a doctor of philosophy degree in 1949. In 1954, he studied at the Carl Jung University in Zurich and received a degree in analytical psychotherapy. He continued his researching career at the University of El Salvador in 1957.  Paul was one of the most influential and renowned figures at the Mental Research Institute. In 1960, he was invited by Don D Jackson to do research at the Mental Research Institute and apparently in 1967, he started teaching psychiatry at the University of Stanford. Over there, he followed the footsteps of Gregory Bateson and the other research team and introduced the theory of schizophrenia knows as the “double bind” which describes when a person is trapped under mutually exclusive expectations. His other work in 1967 i.e. the Pragmatics of Human Communication based on Bateson’s theory made an indelible mark in the work of communication theory. Many other scientific contributions were made by him such as the radical constructivism, the theory of communication and also family therapy.  His theory had great impact on the work of Friedemann Schulz von Thun and his theory of four side models. Moreover, Paul did extensive research on the effect of communication on families. He defined five axioms in his theory on communication which is known as the Interactional View Theory which is essential so that there is communication between two individuals in a family. As far as theory is concerned, miscommunication can always happen because communicators are not speaking the same language most of the time. Generally, it happens because people hold different perspectives while speaking and therefore the axioms explain how miscommunication occurs if the communicators are not on the same page. If however, the axioms are disturbed then there are likely chances of the communication failing. Much of the axioms are derived from the work of Gregory Bateson collected in “Steps to an Ecology of mind”. Paul Watzlawick has 18 books to his credit in 85 foreign language editions and more than 150 book chapters and articles. Some of his books are Pragmatics of Human Communication (1967), Change (with John Weakland and Richard Fisch) (1974), How Real Is Real? (1976), The Language of Change (1977), Gebrauchsanweisung für Amerika (1978), The Situation Is Hopeless, But Not Serious: The Pursuit of Unhappiness (1983), The Invented Reality: How Do We Know What We Believe We Know? (Contributions to Constructivism) (1984) and Ultra-Solutions, or, How to Fail Most Successfully (1988).  Paul Watzlawick lived and worked in Palo Alto, California, until his death at the age of 85.

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