(born Sept. 9, 1890, Mogilno, Ger.—died Feb. 12, 1947, Newtonville, Mass., U.S.) German-U.S. social psychologist. After training and teaching in Berlin, he immigrated to the U.S., where he taught at the University of Iowa (1935–45) and later became director of a group dynamics research centre at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1945–47). He is best known for his field theory of behaviour, which holds that human behaviour is a function of an individual's psychological environment. To fully understand and predict human behaviour, according to Lewin, one must view the totality of events in a person's psychological field, or “lifespace.” His works include A Dynamic Theory of Personality (1935) and Field Theory in Social Science (1951).
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Lewin had originally been involved with schools of behavioral psychology before changing directions in research and undertaking work with psychologists of the Gestalt school of psychology, including Max Wertheimer and Wolfgang Kohler. Lewin often associated with the early Frankfurt School, originated by an influential group of largely Jewish Marxists at the Institute for Social Research in Germany. But when Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933 the Institute members had to disband, moving to England and then to America. In that year, he met with Eric Trist, of the London Tavistock Clinic. Trist was impressed with his theories and went on to use them in his studies on soldiers during the Second World War.
Lewin emigrated to the United States in August 1933 and became a naturalized citizen in 1940. Lewin worked at Cornell University and for the Child Welfare Research Station at the University of Iowa. Later, he went on to become director of the Center for Group Dynamics at MIT. While working with at MIT in 1946, Lewin received a phone call from the Director of the Connecticut State Inter Racial Commission requesting help to find an effective way to combat religious and racial prejudices. He set up a workshop to conduct a 'change' experiment, which laid the foundations for what is now known as sensitivity training. In 1947, this led to the establishment of the National Training Laboratories, at Bethel, Maine. Carl Rogers believed that sensitivity training is "perhaps the most significant social invention of this century."
Following WWII Lewin was involved in the psychological rehabilitation of former occupants of displaced persons camps with Dr. Jacob Fine at Harvard Medical School. When Eric Trist and A T M Wilson wrote to Lewin proposing a journal in partnership with their newly founded Tavistock Institute and his group at MIT, Lewin agreed. The Tavistock journal, Human Relations, was founded with two early papers by Lewin entitled "Frontiers in Group Dynamics". Lewin taught for a time at Duke University
Prominent psychologists mentored by Kurt Lewin included Leon Festinger (1919 - 1989), who became known for his cognitive dissonance theory (1956), environmental psychologist Roger Barker, Bluma Zeigarnik, and Morton Deutsch, the founder of modern conflict resolution theory and practice.
The equation is the psychologist's most well known formula in social psychology, of which Lewin was a modern pioneer. When first presented in Lewin's book Principles of Topological Psychology, published in 1936, it contradicted most popular theories in that it gave importance to a person's momentary situation in understanding his or her behavior, rather than relying entirely on the past.
Super models: in a series of articles examining learning models, Dr Mike Clayton looks at Kurt Lewin's freeze phases--three steps on the journey of change.(IDEAS)
Feb 01, 2008; [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] Change is never-ending. Yet managing it effectively is one of the principal challenges for organisations...
Executive Life case judge delays decision on GICs, urges out-of-court deal. (guaranteed investment contracts, Kurt Lewin)
Nov 08, 1991; Judge Kurt Lewin of the Los Angeles Superior Court yesterday put off deciding whether municipal guaranteed investment contracts...