Peter Suedfeld's Holocaust Research
Peter Suedfeld's Holocaust research is divided into two primary categories: The analysis of Holocaust survivor video interviews, partly in collaboration with Dr. Robert Krell from the Department of Psychiatry (Archival research); and the collection and analysis of questionnaires given to participants at Holocaust survivor reunions (Questionnaire research). The research analyzes such variables as the survivors' assumptions about the world and their control over it, their general life satisfaction, their achievement motivation, and their attributional styles. In addition, questions are addressed examining the impact of the Holocaust on the participants' subsequent lives, and on their current opinions on issues such as politics and religion. The interviews are usually content analyzed, whereas the questionnaires allow more in-depth analyses such as the measurement of intellectual style to see what, if any, effect the Holocaust may have had on survivors' modes of thought (e.g., decision making).
One important recurring finding in these studies supports Suedfeld's general philosophy that human beings are far more resilient than is typically believed. Contrary to widespread misconceptions, Suedfeld's research shows that survivors on the whole have adapted very well in terms of mental health, family and social relations, occupational success, and contributions to society as a whole. These findings are typified by, but not exclusive to, the following publications:
Suedfeld, P. (2002) Life after the ashes: The postwar pain, and resilience, of young Holocaust survivors. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: Center for Advanced Studies (pp. 1-24). Washington, D. C.
Suedfeld, P. (Ed.) (2001). Light from the ashes: Social science careers of young Holocaust refugees and survivors. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Suedfeld, P. (1997). Reactions to societal trauma: Distress and/or Eustress. Political Psychology, 18, 849-861.
Suedfeld, P., Krell, R., Wiebe, R., & Steel, G. D. (1997). Coping strategies in the narratives of Holocaust survivors. Anxiety, Stress & Coping, 10, 153-179.
- Attributional Style of Holocaust Survivors
- Attributional style is just one of many psychological variables that have been addressed in Suedfeld's past and present Holocaust survivor questionnaire studies. In general, these studies examine whether having survived the Holocaust has long-lasting effects on attributional style, coping strategies, affiliation, self and social definition, etc. In the specific case of attributional style, this past study examined survivors' rationalizations of the causes of post-Holocaust life events. Some of this research has been done using the videotaped interview (archival) data as well (see the CAVE research description below).
- Perceptions of Ethnopolitical Conflict
- Still in the planning stage, this project may involve one or more studies, using scenarios (role-playing) dealing with conflict, prejudice, persecution, genocide, ethnic cleansing, and civil war within nations that contain several ethnic/religious/language groups. The current plan is to look at the variables that people consider relevant in the avoidance or occurrence, course, and termination of violent or nonviolent confrontations, the role of governments in escalating or defusing conflict, the role of third-party intervention (e.g., by the UN), etc.
- Erikson's Stages of Psychosocial Development
- Though already completed, this study is a good example of the type of archival research that is conducted in Suedfeld's laboratory. Newly-recorded video interviews with 30 survivors and 10 reliability videos were scored for Erik Erikson's 8 stages of psychosocial development. The goal was to assess whether or not survivors successfully dealt with the eight stages. Survivors were divided into three groups by age: Child, Adolescent, and Adult, with analyses conducted to see if they had different ways of dealing with the 8 stages.
- Content Analysis of Verbatim Explanations: CAVE
- Also newly completed, this study scored the Holocaust survivor interview tapes for survivors' attributional styles. That is, how survivors explain the causes of certain events that they mention during the tapes. For more information about CAVE, see the work of Dr. Martin Seligman, the creator of the scoring system.
- Holocaust Rescuers
- This study is designed to look at different psychological aspects of people who rescued or hid Jewish people during the Holocaust.
- Women's Narratives
- This study looks at five different psychological aspects of women who have lived through tumultuous and dangerous times (e.g., women Holocaust survivors, women slaves, women during wartime, etc.). The study examines integrative complexity, attributional style, motive imagery, self and social definition, and psychological stances toward the environment. Other variables may be incorporated as the research progresses.
Last updated: Monday, June 7, 2004
Follow this link to see a complete list of Dr. Suedfeld's relevant publications on this topic.
For general information on the Holocaust, please visit the links page.
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About this web-site
This web-site describes the research and other achievements of Dr. Peter Suedfeld, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia.
This page describes Dr. Suedfeld's Holocaust research. The rest of the site is organized under the following topic headings:
Other research topics: