Carol Tavris

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Carol Tavris
Carol Tavris IIG.jpg
Dr. Tavris at the Independent Investigations Group's 10th Anniversary Gala, August 21, 2010
Born (1944-09-17) September 17, 1944 (age 70)
Los Angeles
Residence United States
Nationality American
Fields Social Psychology
Institutions University of California, Los Angeles
Alma mater University of Michigan, PhD (1971)

Carol Anne Tavris (born September 17, 1944)[1] is an American social psychologist, feminist and skeptic. She is an author with works exploring the themes of critical thinking, feminism and criticism of pseudoscience.[2]

She has taught psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles and the New School for Social Research. She is a fellow of the American Psychological Association, the Association for Psychological Science and the Center for Inquiry. Her articles, book reviews and op-eds have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Times Literary Supplement, and other publications.[2]

Early life[edit]

Carol Tavris grew up in California, the granddaughter of Russian Jews who had immigrated to Chicago.[2] She took her first degree in comparative literature and sociology at Brandeis University. After Brandeis, she took up graduate study at the University of Michigan, where she received a PhD in social psychology. Here she learned about the scientific method and in her own words, "fell in love with the process of science."[2]


Carol Tavris accepts award from the IIG August 21, 2010.

Tavris took a year's break from her study to write for the popular magazine Psychology Today, which she returned to after finishing her PhD. At San Diego State College, she taught one of the first courses in women's studies with Carole Wade, who became a frequent collaborator; their first text was "The Longest War: Sex differences in perspective" (1977, revised 1984). When Psychology Today moved to New York, she moved with it, subsequently writing for Human Nature magazine.[2]

Her most well-known book, The Mismeasure of Woman, argues in favor of egalitarian feminism and against theories that advocate biological reductionism to explain differences between men and women. The title is a play on Stephen Jay Gould's The Mismeasure of Man. The book critiques not only cultural myths about the inferiority of women, but also the ideas of innate female superiority advanced by some groups.[3] The book won the 1992 Distinguished Media Contribution Award from the American Association for Applied and Preventative Psychology.[4][5] In Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion, published in 1982, she critiques numerous popular assumptions about anger. Contrary to some popular therapies from that time, she argues that venting anger can increase rather than diminish it. At the same time, she advocates a constructive role for anger as a driver of positive social change.[6][7] She has also co-authored four psychology textbooks with Carole Wade, including The Longest War: Sex Differences in Perspective. Mistakes were made (but not by me), co-authored with the social psychologist Elliot Aronson, uses cognitive dissonance theory and other ideas from psychological research to explain how people maintain a favorable self-image when their actions harm others. The book uses topical examples including the Bush Administration's justification for its invasion of Iraq[8][9] as well as the role of cognitive dissonance in the criminal justice system and in religious and paranormal beliefs.[10]

On August 21, 2010 Dr. Tavris was honored with an award recognizing her contributions in the skeptical field, from The Independent Investigations Group during its 10th Anniversary Gala.[11] On May 10, 2013, she received an honorary doctorate of letters from Simmons College.[12]

In 2014 Tavris began writing columns for Skeptic magazine. Her first column focused on the science of memory, and how it should be noted with respect to accusations by adults of sexual abuse when they were children.[13]

Personal life[edit]

Tavris was married to the actor Ronan O'Casey until his death in April 2012.[14]


  • Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts (with Elliot Aronson) (Harcourt, 2007) (ISBN 978-0-15-101098-1)
  • The Mismeasure of Woman: Why Women Are Not the Better Sex, the Inferior Sex, or the Opposite Sex (Simon and Schuster, 1992) (ISBN 0-671-66274-0)
  • Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion (Revised edition 1989, Touchstone, ISBN 0-671-67523-0)
  • Psychology (with Carole Wade and Maryanne Garry) (11th edition, 2014, Pearson, ISBN 0-205-25431-4)
  • Invitation to Psychology (with Carole Wade) (6th edition, available 2014, Pearson, ISBN 978-0-205-03519-9)
  • Psychology in Perspective (with Carole Wade) (Three editions, latest 2001, Prentice Hall, ISBN 0-13-028326-6)
  • Psychobabble and Biobunk: Using Psychology to Think Critically About Issues in the News (Three editions, latest Prentice Hall, 2011, ISBN 978-0-205-01591-7)
  • The Longest War: Sex Differences in Perspective (with Carole Wade) (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977, revised 1984)
  • EveryWoman's Emotional Well-Being: Heart & Mind, Body & Soul (Doubleday, 1986)
  • The Redbook Report on Female Sexuality: 100,000 married women disclose the good news about sex (Delacorte, 1977)


  1. ^ "Carol Tavris". Contemporary Authors Online. Gale, Literature Resource Center. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Shermer, Michael (February 9, 2011). "The Measure of a Woman: An interview with social scientist Carol Tavris". eSkeptic. ISSN 1556-5696. Retrieved February 12, 2011.  originally published in The Skeptic v7 n1 1999.
  3. ^ Casey, Constance (April 7, 1992). "Book Review: A Scrupulous Investigation of Male-Female Inconsistencies". Los Angeles Times. p. 10. 
  4. ^ Krikos, Linda A.; Cindy Ingold; Catherine Loeb (2004). Women's studies: a recommended bibliography. Libraries Unlimited. p. 293. ISBN 978-1-56308-566-6. Retrieved February 12, 2011. 
  5. ^ Esterle, John; Dan Clurman (1993). Conversations with critical thinkers. San Francisco: Whitman institute. pp. 113–128. 
  6. ^ Broyard, Anatole (February 19, 1983). "Books of the Times: Depression's Other Side". New York Times. Retrieved February 12, 2011. 
  7. ^ Brody, Jane E. (March 8, 1983). "Venting Anger May Do More Harm Than Good". New York Times. Retrieved February 12, 2011. 
  8. ^ Newnham, David (May 24, 2008). "Review: Right all along: David Newnham on the dangers of relying on one's memory". The Guardian. p. Guardian Review, 8. 
  9. ^ Vedantam, Shankar (July 9, 2007). "Bush: Naturally, Never Wrong". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 12, 2011. 
  10. ^ "Point of Inquiry Podcast: Carol Tavris - Mistakes were made". Point of Inquiry. 3 Aug 2007. Retrieved 23 Aug 2014. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ "‘Miss Representation,' Oscar-Nominated Filmmaker is Simmons College's Commencement Speaker, May 10". Simmons College. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  13. ^ Tavris, Carol (February 26, 2014). "Believe the Survivors or the Science?: What the science of memory can teach us about the Dylan Farrow/Woody Allen case". eSkeptic.
  14. ^ O'Casey, Matt (2012-05-09). "Ronan O'Casey obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 2014-03-27. 

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