Eric Lansdown dreary

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Eric Lansdown Trist (born September 11, 1909 in Dover , † June 4, 1993 in Carmel-by-the-Sea , California ) was a leading British social psychologist in the field of organizational development (OE). He was a co-founder of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations (TIHR) in London .


Trist was the son of a Cornish sea ​​captain and a Scottish mother. He grew up in Dover. In 1928 he started at Pembroke College of Cambridge University English literature at IA Richards and psychology, Gestalt psychology and psychoanalysis at Frederic Bartlett study. In 1933 he met Kurt Lewin for the first time , whose work interested him very much.

Trist graduated with honors in psychology in 1933. A Commonwealth Fund Fellowship enabled him to study for two years at Yale University in the United States , where he met Edward Sapir and again Lewin, who taught at Cornell University and the University of Iowa . He visited the behaviorist B. F. Skinner in Boston. As a witness to the effects of the Great Depression , he became interested in politics for the first time and began to read Karl Marx .

After returning to England in 1935, he studied unemployment at the Jute Mill in Dundee on behalf of Oscar Oeser, head of the psychological department at the University of St Andrews , Scotland .

During the Second World War , Trist worked as a psychologist at Maudsley Hospital in London, where he treated victims of the Battle of Dunkirk . While attending seminars at Maudsley, he met staff from the Tavistock Clinic , which led him to join the Tavistock group in the army. He went to Edinburgh , where he worked with John D. Sutherland and Wilfred Bion for the Recruiting Bureau (WOSB). For the last two years of the war, he was chief psychologist for the repatriation of prisoners of war under plans by Tommy Wilson and Wilfred Bion, which became one of his most exciting professional experiences.

After the war he was Vice Director and Director of the newly founded Tavistock Institute from 1946 to 1966. Under the patronage of the institute, he founded new institutes such as the Family Discussion Bureau (today: the Institute of Marital Studies) and the Institute for Operational Research .

In 1966 Trist moved to the United States, where he taught as Professor of Organizational Theory (OB) and Social Ecology at the University of California, Los Angeles . From 1969 until his retirement in 1978 he was Professor of Organizational Theory and Social Ecology at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania . From 1978 to 1983 he was Professor of Organizational Behavior and Social Ecology in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University in Toronto . In between, he was called to England to give the Tavistock Institute a public reputation for social science issues in collaboration with the OECD and UNESCO .


Common experiences during the war led the so-called Tavistock Group to take the future of Tavistock by hand. A Rockefeller Foundation grant enabled them to found the Tavistock Institute in 1947 with Tommy Wilson as director and Trist as vice director, while the Tavistock Clinic became part of the newly formed National Health Service . Most of the group members were trained in psychoanalysis .

In addition to Melanie Klein , John Bowlby , Donald Winnicott , Trist was mainly influenced by Kurt Lewin and his methods of behavior change, such as sensitivity training , which were used at the Tavistock Institute for change processes in commercial enterprises.

In 1949 Trist published his famous article ("Some Social and Psychological Consequences of the Longwall Method of Coal Getting") on his work on organizational theory in an English coal mine in Yorkshire . The Tavistock approach and socio-technical research methods emerged from these studies . In the socio-technical system , the technical and the psychosocial system were linked. Together with Fred Emery, Trist developed the socio-technical approach to "Work Design", an application of organizational development (OE) for the so-called humanization of work (improvement of job satisfaction , efficiency, quality, absenteeism , etc.). Internally run, self-regulating working groups would be more productive and motivating for the workers than the previous conventional hierarchy. Trist and the Tavistock Institute dealt with industrial projects until 1951.

Trist's group at Tavistock and Lewin's at MIT launched Human Relations at the Research Center for Group Dynamics in Ann Arbor in 1947 , which made the British institute famous in the United States. In the 1990s, Trist edited the three-volume anthology The Social Engagement of Social Science on the history of the Tavistock Institute together with Hugh Murray and Fred Emery .



  • Henry V Dicks: Fifty Years of the Tavistock Clinic . Routledge 1970, ISBN 0710068468
  • Pearl HM King: Activities of British psychoanalysts during the Second World War and the influence of their interdisciplinary collaboration on the development of psychoanalysis in Great Britain. International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 1982
  • Eric Trist, W. Bamforth: Some Social and Psychological Consequences of the Long Wall Method of Coal-Getting , in: Human Relations, 1951.
  • Eric Trist, C. Sofer: Exploration in Group Relations , Leicester, Leicester University Press, 1959.
  • F. Emery, Trist E .: The Causal Texture of Organizational Environments , in: Human Relations, 1965.
  • F. Emery, E. Trist: Toward a Social Ecology , 1972.
  • Eric L. Trist: The Social Engagement of Social Science. A Tavistock Anthology. The Socio-Ecological Perspective , University of Pennsylvania, May 1997. ISBN 0-8122-8194-2

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. [1] (PDF file; 870 kB) Transitional Communities and Social Reconnection: The Civil Resettlement of British Prisoners of War
  2. ^ [2] The Social Engagement of Social Science
  3. ^ [3] American Psychological Association (APA): The Kurt Lewin Award 1951