Paul Felix Lazarsfeld

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Paul Felix Lazarsfeld

Paul Felix Lazarsfeld (born February 13, 1901 in Vienna , † August 30, 1976 in New York City , United States ) was an Austrian-American sociologist and was also known by the pseudonym Elias Smith . He was the 52nd president of the American Sociological Association .


Early years in Vienna

Paul Felix Lazarsfeld was born in Vienna as the son of the lawyer Robert Lazarsfeld and the individual psychologist Sophie Lazarsfeld (née Munk). He grew up there and attended a Viennese high school, which he graduated with the Matura in 1919 .

He became politically active early on as an activist of the left wing of the " Association of Socialist Middle School Students ". He later became a member of the Social Democratic Labor Party of Austria . After finishing school, he began studying mathematics at the University of Vienna . In 1924 he wrote his dissertation "On the calculation of the perihelion movement of Mercury from Einstein's theory of gravity" and then received the doctoral degree of Dr. phil.

From 1924 to 1925 he completed post-graduate studies in France. He became a member of the Section française de l'Internationale ouvrière . In August 1925 he took part in the 2nd Congress of the " Socialist Workers International " in Marseille .

In 1925 Lazarsfeld returned to Vienna. In the years 1925 to 1929 worked as a grammar school teacher for mathematics in Vienna. From 1929 to 1933 he worked at the Psychological Institute of the University of Vienna , where he was given a teaching position in psychology as an assistant to Karl Bühler (1879–1963) and Charlotte Bühler (1893–1974). From 1930 to 1933 he was head of the “Business Psychological Research Center” in Vienna. In 1931 he appeared in the address book as a secondary school teacher (grammar schools were referred to as secondary schools in Austria until the 1960s) with an apartment in the newly opened Karl-Marx-Hof , Vienna 19th, Boschstrasse 17, Stiege 50.

In 1926 he married Marie Jahoda, who would later become a social psychologist, who was then only 19 . The marriage, from which the daughter Lotte Franziska Lazarsfeld (born July 17, 1930), married Bailyn, social psychologist and professor of management, was divorced again in 1934, because Lazarsfeld had been involved with Herta Herzog since 1932 .

Emigration to the USA

Lazarsfeld went to the USA from 1933 to 1935 on a Rockefeller Foundation scholarship . In 1935 he decided to emigrate and stay there. He only returned to Vienna briefly to get an immigrant visa instead of the previous student visa. He received American citizenship in 1943.

From 1935 to 1936 Lazarsfeld worked as a supervisor for the National Youth Administration in New Jersey . From 1936 to 1937 he was director of the Research Center at the University of Newark , New Jersey. The second marriage to the social scientist Herta Herzog was divorced again in 1936.

From 1937 to 1939 he was director of the Rockefeller Foundation- funded Office of Radio Research at Princeton University , which was moved to Columbia University in New York City in 1939 and was later named Bureau of Applied Social Research . Lazarsfeld was a faculty member of the university from 1939 until his death, first as Associate Professor , from 1940 Full Professor of Sociology . In 1963 he received the title of Quételet Professor of Social Science .

From 1940 to 1949 Lazarsfeld was director of the Bureau of Applied Social Research . In 1949 he stepped down and remained there from 1949 as Associate Director . In addition, he was chairman of the Graduate Department of Sociology from 1949 . In addition to his professorship, he pursued numerous other activities. Among other things, he worked as an advisor to the War Production Board at the US War Department during World War II . In 1949 he worked as an advisor to the New York Public Service Commission on Canned Music . From 1948 to 1949 he was a visiting professor at the University of Oslo . In 1949 he married the third marriage to the social scientist Patricia Louise Kendall (1921–1990). Their son Robert was born in New York City in 1953. In 1951 Lazarsfeld was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences .

In 1963 Lazarsfeld founded the Institute for Advanced Studies in Vienna together with Oskar Morgenstern . From 1962 to 1963 and from 1967 to 1968 he was visiting professor at the Sorbonne in Paris. He also worked on numerous TV Research Commissions and the TV Bureau of Advertising .

Lazarsfeld retired at the age of 70 . In 1974 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences . Until 1976 he worked as Professor of Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania . After his retirement he accepted a teaching position at the Sorbonne in Paris, where he taught in French. He died on August 30, 1976 in New York City.

In 1994 the Lazarsfeldgasse in Vienna- Floridsdorf (21st district) was named after him.

His work

Paul F. Lazarsfeld is considered to be the founder of modern empirical social research . Lazarsfeld developed the so-called " Latent Structure Analyzes ", a procedure that is closely related to Rasch scaling.

The study carried out with Marie Jahoda and Hans Zeisel on “ The Unemployed in Marienthal ” is considered essential . Here, data from a wide variety of sources were interpreted under the guiding question, combining very different survey methods that appear sensible. In this way a haunting image of an industrial village characterized by collective unemployment was created.

In the US he proved to be an extremely prolific co-author; Organization and implementation of research projects form the core of its activities.

The study “ The People's Choice ” carried out in 1940 (see the article Communication model according to Lazarsfeld ) proved to be groundbreaking for communication research . For this study, 600 registered voters were followed during the presidential election campaign and asked about their reaction to the election campaign . It turned out that interpersonal communication has a strong influence on later voting behavior. The so-called “opinion leaders” were of particular importance as multipliers of news and opinions. The study coined the term “two-step flow of communication”. 1. The “opinion leaders” listen to the radio or read the newspaper 2. Then they pass on their opinion to the population in filtered form.

Paul Felix Lazarsfeld Archive

The Paul F. Lazarsfeld Archive at the Institute for Sociology in Vienna was opened on March 11, 1983. It is located on the premises of the Institute for Sociology at the University of Vienna . The Austrian sociologist Anton Amann has been the managing director since 2001 .

Paul Lazarsfeld Professorship

The Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Vienna has established an annual Paul Lazarsfeld Visiting Professorship, which has been based at the Faculty Center for Methods in Social Sciences since 2008.

Paul F. Lazarsfeld Award

The American Sociological Association presents the Paul F. Lazarsfeld Award to scientists who have made outstanding methodological contributions in sociology in their academic career.



  • About the calculation of the perihelion movement of Mercury from Einstein's theory of gravity. Vienna: self-published 1925, 10 sheets. At the same time phil. Dissertation Vienna 1925.
  • Statistical internship for psychologists and teachers . With a foreword by Charlotte Bühler . With 45 illustrations in the text. Jena: G. Fischer 1929, VIII, 180 pp.
  • (with Marie Jahoda and Hans Zeisel) The unemployed from Marienthal . A sociographical experiment on the effects of long-term unemployment. Published and edited by the Austrian Business Psychological Research Center. Leipzig: S. Hirzel 1933 (= Psychological Monographs. 5.), 123 pp.
  • (with Arthur W [illiam] Kornhauser) The techniques of market research from the standpoint of a psychologist . (Presented at the Institute of management meeting, Hotel Pennsylvania, May 24, 1935.) New York: American Management Association [1935] (= Institute of management series. Institute of management. 16.), 24 pp.
  • (with Samuel A [ndrew] Stouffler ) Research memorandum on the family in the depression . With the assistance of A [bram] J. Jaffe. Prepared under the direction of the Committee studies in social aspects of the depression. New York: Social Science Research Council [1937] (= Bulletin Social Science Research Council (US). 29. / Studies in the social aspects of the depression. 3.), x, 221 p. Cover title: The family in the depression.
  • (with Frank Stanton) Radio and the printed page. An introduction to the study of radio and its role in the communication of ideas . (1st edition.) New York: Duell, Sloan, and Pearce 1940 (= History of broadcasting, radio to television.).
  • (Editor with Frank N [icholas] Stanton) Radio research , 1941. New York: Duell, Sloan, and Pearce 1942 (= Essential books.), 333 pp.
  • Radio research . Volume 2: 1942-1943. New York: Arno Press 1979 (= Perennial works in sociology.), Xvi, 599 pp. Reprint.
  • (with Bernard R [euben] Berelson and Hazel Gaudet) The people's choice: How the voter makes up his mind in a presidential campaign. New York: Duell, Sloan, and Pearce 1944, vii, 178 pp.
  • (with Harry Field) The people look at radio . Report on a survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center, University of Denver, Harry Field, director. Analyzed and interpreted by the Bureau of Applied Social Research, Columbia University, Paul F. Lazarsfeld, director. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press [1946], ix, 158 pp.
  • The psychological and sociological implications of economic planning in Norway . (This project was outlined and gotten under way by Paul F. Lazarsfeld.) Oslo: Universitet [1948], 120 p. (Typewritten hectographed).
  • What is sociology? Oslo: Universitetets studentkontor 1948, 20 p. (Hectographed typewriter).
  • (with Patricia L [ouise] Kendall) Radio listening in America. The people look at radio - again. Report on a survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center of the University of Chicago, analyzed and interpreted by Paul F. Lazarsfeld and Patricia L. Kendall of the Bureau of Applied Social Research, Columbia University, a second survey sponsored by the National ] A [association of] B [roadcasters]. New York: Prentice-Hall 1948, v, 178 pp.
  • (with Frank N [icholas] Stanton) Communications research, 1948-1949 . (1st edition.) New York: Harper & Brothers 1949 (= Publications of the Bureau of Applied Social Research, Columbia University.), Xviii, 332 pp.
  • (with Samuel A [ndrew] Stouffer, Louis Guttman, Edward A [llen] Suchman, Shirley A. Star, and John A. Clausen) Measurement and prediction . Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press 1950 (= Studies in social psychology in World War II. IV.), X, 756 pp.
  • (Editor with Robert K [ing] Merton ) Continuities in social research. Studies in the scope and method of "The American soldier". Glencoe, Ill .: The Free Press 1950, 255 pp.
  • (Ed.) Mathematical thinking in the social sciences . Glencoe, Ill .: The Free Press 1954, 444 pp.
  • (with Elihu Katz ) Personal influence. The part played by people in the flow of mass communications. A report of the Bureau of Applied Social Research, Columbia University. Glencoe, Ill .: The Free Press 1955 (= Foundations of communications research. 2.), xx, 400 pp.
  • (Editor with Morris Rosenberg) The language of social research. A reader in the methodology of social research. Glencoe, Ill .: The Free Press 1955, xiii, 590 pp.
  • (with Wagner Thielens jr.) Academic mind. Social scientists in a time of crisis. With a field report by David Riesman . (A report of the Bureau of Supplies Social Research, Columbia University.) Glencoe, Ill .: The Free Press 1958 (= The Academic profession.), Xiii, 460 pp.
  • (with Robert A [lan] Dahl and Mason Haire) Social science research on business. Product and potential. New York: Columbia University Press 1959, 185 pp.
  • (with Lawrence R [obert] Klein and Ralph W [infred] Tyler) The behavioral sciences. Problems and prospects . Three papers. Boulder, Col .: University of Colorado, Institute of Behavioral Science 1964, 40 pp.
  • (with Raymond Boudon ) Le vocabulaire des sciences sociales. Concepts et indices. Paris: Mouton 1965 (= Maison des sciences de l'homme, Paris. Méthodes de la sociologie. 1.), 309 pp.
  • (Editor with Neil W. Henry) Readings in mathematical social science. Chicago: Science Research Associates 1966, 371 pp.
  • (Editor with William H [amilton] Sewell and Harold L. Wilensky) The uses of sociology. New York: Basic Books [1967], xi, 902 pp.
  • The use of panels in social research . Oslo: Universitet 1968, 10 sheets.
  • (with Neil W. Henry) Latent structure analysis . Boston: Houghton, Mifflin 1968, ix, 294 pp.
  • At the pulse of society. On the methodology of empirical sociology . (German by Helga and Philipp Schwarzer.) Vienna – Frankfurt – Zurich: Europa Verlag 1968 (= European Perspectives.), 184 pp. With a foreword by Gertrude Wagner.
  • Qualitative analysis . Historical and critical essays . Boston: Allyn and Bacon 1972, xvii, 457 pp. With contributions by James S [amuel] Coleman , Raymond Boudon, and C [harles] Wright Mills.
  • Main trends in sociology . (Originally published as Chapter 1 in Main trends of research in the social and human sciences, Part 1, Mouton / UNESCO 1970.) New York – London: Harper & Row 1973 (= Harper torchbooks. 1781. / Sociology.), 115 pp .
  • (with Jeffrey G. Reitz and Ann K. Pasanella) An introduction to applied sociology . New York: Elsevier 1975, vii, 196 pp.
  • (with Talcott Parsons and Edward Shils ) Sociology - autobiographical. Three critical reports on the development of a science. Preface by Heinz Hartmann . (Translation of the contributions by Talcott Parsons and Edward Shils Modeste to Nedden Pferdekamp, ​​the contribution by Paul F. Lazarsfeld Heinz Hartmann.) Stuttgart: Enke 1975 (= flexible paperback.), X, 232 p. Darin by Paul F. Lazarsfeld: Eine Episode in the History of Empirical Social Research.
  • Sociology - autobiographical. Three critical reports on the development of a science . Preface by Heinz Hartmann . (Translation of the articles by Talcott Parsons and Edward Shils Modeste on the Nedden horse fight, of the article by Paul F. Lazarsfeld Heinz Hartmann.) Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch-Verlag 1975 (= dtv. 4160. / Wissenschaftliche Reihe.), X, 232 pp.
  • On social research and its language. Edited and with an introduction by Raymond Boudon. Chicago – London: The University of Chicago Press 1993 (= The heritage of sociology.), Vii, 333 pp.


  • Klaus Allerbeck: Paul F. Lazarsfeld . In: Dirk Kaesler (Ed.): Classics of Sociology 2 . (Beck series). 4th edition. Beck, Munich 2003, pp. 7-23.
  • Thymian Bussemer: Paul Felix Lazarsfeld and the establishment of communication research as an empirical social science . In: Medien & Kommunikationwissenschaft, vol. 55, 2007, issue 1, pp. 80-100 ( online ).
  • Friedrich Fürstenberg : Knowledge and Action. Lazarsfeld's foundation of social research , in: Paul Larzarsfeld (1901–1976). La sociologie de Vienne à New York (eds. Jacques Lautman & Bernard-Pierre Lécuyer); Paris-Montréal (Qc.): Ed. L'Harmattan 1998, pp. 423-432, ISBN 2-7384-6365-7 ; online version: [1]
  • Dirk KaeslerLazarsfeld, Paul Felix. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 14, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1985, ISBN 3-428-00195-8 , p. 10 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Wolfgang Langenbucher (Ed.): Paul Felix Lazarsfeld - Life and Work. Instead of a biography. Vienna, Braumüller 2008; ISBN 978-3-7003-1680-0 .
  • Winfried B. Lerg: Paul Felix Lazarsfeld and communication research . A bio-bibliographical epitaph. In: Publizistik, Vol. 22, 1977, pp. 72–88.
  • Desmond Mark (ed.): Paul Lazarsfeld's Vienna RAVAG Studies 1932 . The beginning of modern radio research, Vienna, Mülheim an der Ruhr: Guthmann-Peterson 1996 (= series of publications on music and society. 24.).

Web links


  1. Paul Lazarsfeld Visiting Professorship  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /  
  2. Awards. American Sociological Association, accessed January 3, 2020 .
  3. ^ Past Award Winners. American Sociological Association, accessed January 3, 2020 .