>Dr. Richard S. Lazarus, 80, Psychologist, Is Dead;
>December 16, 2002
>By ERIC NAGOURNEY
>Dr. Richard S. Lazarus, an influential psychologist who
>charted the terrain of human emotion, most notably how
>people cope with stress, died on Nov. 24 in Walnut Creek,
>Calif. He was 80.
>His death resulted from a fall, said officials at the
>University of California at Berkeley, where he taught for
>almost four decades.
>Dr. Lazarus began rising to prominence in the 1960's, 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.
>"For decades, psychology under the reign of behaviorism
>ignored what went on inside the head," said Dr. Paul Ekman,
>a psychology professor at the University of California at
>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.
>Of a disagreement with another researcher, he once wrote:
>"He remains as dedicated as ever to the view that the study
>of behavior and mind is handicapped by the absence of
>knowledge about the brain. I would reverse his argument
>completely by suggesting that knowledge of the brain is not
>necessary for an adequate theory of the mind and,
>ironically, in light of his position, that a knowledge of
>brain function cannot be obtained without a sound theory of
>mind and behavior."
>A collaborator, Dr. Susan Folkman of the University of
>California at San Francisco, said Dr. Lazarus had disliked
>"He was very opposed to reductionist approaches to
>understanding human behavior," said Dr. Folkman, co-author
>with Dr. Lazarus of a 1984 book, "Stress, Appraisal and
>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.
>Dr. Lazarus and Dr. Folkman argued that when problems
>arise, there are two ways of coping. One is to try to deal
>with the problem directly. The other is to try to reduce
>the anxiety caused by the problem. Both, they said, are
>beneficial. Even false hope can help.
>"Mildly depressed people are very realistic about
>themselves, too realistic," Dr. Lazarus once said. "As you
>become depressed, you become aware of your defeats and
>start to feel hopeless. People who function well strive
>against odds because they hold on to hope."
>Richard Stanley Lazarus was born on March 3, 1922, in New
>York. He graduated from City College in 1942 and earned his
>doctorate at the University of Pittsburgh.
>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. In
>addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, David, of
>Pleasant Hill, Calif., a daughter, Nancy, of Orinda,
>Calif., and four grandchildren.
>Even Dr. Lazarus said positive thinking had its limits. A
>seriously ill person may do better if he maintains hope,
>but he should not be so optimistic that he fails to seek
>medical care. Still, Dr. Lazarus once told Newsweek, "a
>little fooling of yourself can be helpful."