Mona Weissmark

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Photograph of Dr. Mona Weissmark giving a lecture at The Goethe-Institute.

Mona Sue Weissmark is an American clinical psychologist and social psychologist, whose work on the inter-generational impact of injustice has received international recognition. She is best known for her groundbreaking social experiment of bringing children of Holocaust survivors face-to-face with children of Nazis,[1] and later, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of African American slaves with slave owners.[2] She is also a professor of psychology at Northwestern University and author of numerous journal articles and three books: Doing Psychotherapy Effectively (University of Chicago Press) and Justice Matters: Legacies of the Holocaust and World War II (Oxford University Press), and The Science of Diversity (Oxford University Press).



Weissmark received a bachelor’s degree at McGill University in 1977 and a doctorate degree at the University of Pennsylvania in 1986. She went on to pursue a postdoctoral fellowship in the department of Psychology at Harvard University from 1987 until 1990, and in 1991 became a lecturer at Harvard Medical School, teaching graduate courses on research methods. In 1994, she moved to Chicago and joined the faculty at Roosevelt University as a tenured associate professor of psychology (1994–2005) and also joined the department of Psychology at Northwestern University as a visiting scholar (1994–2003). In 2004, Weissmark was named visiting associate professor of psychology at Northwestern University and founded the Global Mental Health Studies Program part of The Buffett Institute, where she now teaches "Psychology of Diversity" and conducts research on the psychology of justice.[3] She also is a visiting professor of psychology at Harvard University where she also teaches "Psychology of Diversity."[4]


Weissmark was born in Vineland, New Jersey. She lives in Evanston, Illinois with her husband a University of Chicago psychiatrist. They have one daughter.

Main work[edit]

Clinical Psychology[edit]

Weissmark’s initial research in graduate school was in clinical psychology, where she explored the links between theory and practice[5][6][7][8] and outlined a theory of how therapists think in action.[9][10]


During her postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard, Weissmark became interested in studying the empirical predictors of psychotherapy effectiveness. Subsequently, she headed the Harvard Psychotherapy Research Project and published Doing Psychotherapy Effectively (1998).[11] The book presents a summary of her empirical research on how therapy works and provides a tool for measuring therapeutic effectiveness and understanding human transformation.

Psychology of Justice[edit]

A groundbreaking social experiment[edit]

At Harvard, Weissmark also developed a deep-seated interest in the psychology of justice, which eventually dominated her research activities. Over the past 15 years, her work has focussed on the relational impact of injustice.[12] Both her parents were Holocaust survivors and apart from them, her entire family was killed by the Nazis. That legacy has indelibly marked her own life experience and professional choices.

Weissmark hypothesized that, while legal systems offer some forms of redress to the victims of injustice, they rarely address the emotional pain. Left unresolved, the pain and sense of injustice are then passed along to the next generation, leading to entrenched group tension and conflict. She also speculated that children of victims and children of perpetrators have a lot in common.

To test these hypotheses, Weissmark pioneered a unique social experiment. In 1992 at Harvard University, she brought together children of Holocaust survivors and children of Nazis.[13] The following year, she replicated the meeting in Germany.[14] Then in 1995, in Chicago, she brought descendants of African American slaves face-to-face with descendants of slave owners.[15]

The purpose of bringing two such disparate sides together was "not to forget or forgive the past, but create a new future," Weissmark said.[16] The findings from the meetings showed that the cycle of hatred could be transformed if both parties were willing to put aside the notion they were the most aggrieved and were prepared to see the other side.[17][18]

Media coverage[edit]

The meetings received extensive national and international media attention, with articles in the Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, Psychology Today, Ms., The Jerusalem Report, She magazine, The Guardian and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, among other publications. They were also featured on television programs, including National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, the BBC, the CBS News Sunday Morning, and Dateline NBC.[19]

Justice Matters[edit]

In 2004, Weissmark wrote Justice Matters: Legacies of the Holocaust and World War II.[3] The book’s findings provide a new framework for understanding the psychology of injustice, which could be applied to many conflicts stemming from centuries-old disputes, such as those in Israel, Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Rwanda or Sri Lanka.[20]

In 2006 Justice Matters was made into a documentary television film, aired on national German television WDR. The film, Seeing the Other Side – 60 years after Buchenwald, also has been distributed to schools and churches across the country.[21][22]

Institute for Social Justice Studies[edit]

Weissmark wanted her research to have relevance outside the realm of academia and be available to the general public. In 1999, thanks to a generous gift, she created the Institute for Social Justice Studies in Chicago and remained director until 2004. The Institute sponsored social science research on social justice, diversity, discrimination, among other issues, and organized guest lectures, seminars and conferences open to both specialists and the general public.

The Science of Diversity[edit]

In 2017, Weissmark wrote The Science of Diversity (forthcoming 2020, Oxford University Press). The Science of Diversity uses a multidisciplinary approach to excavate the theories, principles, and paradigms that illuminate our understanding of the issues surrounding human diversity, social equality, and justice.

Weissmark, assembles a rich array of research from anthropology, biology, religious studies, and the social sciences, among other fields to write a scholarly diorama of diversity. This book, designed to be accessible to undergraduate students, contextualizes diversity historically, tracing the evolution of ideas about "the other" and about "we" and "them" to various forms of social organization, from the "hunter-gather," face-to-face, shared resource model to the anomie of megacities.

Moreover, The Science of Diversity, explicates the concept of diversity, parsing its meaning over time, place, and polity—from ancient Greece to the time of Trump, from biblical parables to United Nations pronouncements. Nevertheless, the connecting threads weaving this multidimensional work together are pulled from the field of psychology, and these help provide important structure to the ideas of diversity presented. The book then brings these to the surface holistically, examining diversity on the individual, interpersonal, and international levels.

Most significantly, The Science of Diversity is also prescriptive. Drawing on the author’s groundbreaking research work with the children of Nazis and the children of holocaust survivors, the book suggests that one potential antidote to ethnic strife lies in the pursuit of Kant’s mandate, sapere aude (dare to know), combined with the development of compassion. To that end, the book explores the use of scientific thinking as one way we can dare to know "the other."

Additional Newspaper and Magazine Articles[edit]

A series of articles in scientific literature, Psychology Today, provide targeted exploration of the topics investigated within the context of the book.[23][24][25][26][27][28][29][30][31]

Dr. Weissmark wrote an opinion piece for the Chicago Tribune entitled "Commentary: Can the world agree upon a 'common memory' of the Holocaust?"[32]

She has also explored via research discussed in a blog post to Psychology Today why attempts at outlawing bias are likely to fail.[33]

An interview in the University of Pennsylvania GSE Alumni Magazine exists in PDF form and can be found at the Issuu Inc. website.[34]

In an article in Psychology Today Dr. Weissmark examines and explains why many famous psychological studies cannot be reproduced.[35]

An additional article describes how bias interventions are ineffective.[36] Dr. Weissmark discussed similar themes with Michelle King on The Fix Podcast.[37]

In this article Dr. Weissmark examines the current body of work regarding the workplace policies intended to ban discrimination.[38]

An earlier article reviews the state of psychology research.[39]

This is an earlier article written by Dr. Weissmark regarding potentially effective methods of reducing prejudice.[40]


  1. ^ "The past between them", CBS, (September 13, 1992 ). CBS Sunday Morning News. Produced by Cathy Lewis. Sunday morning news with Charles Kuralt, CBS, New York: CBS
  2. ^ "An overdo apology", Psychology Today, September/October 1995
  3. ^ a b "Justice Matters: Legacies of the Holocaust and World War II." Weissmark, M. (2004). Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.
  4. ^ Jacobs, Lizbeth. "PSYC 1507 - PSYCHOLOGY OF DIVERSITY COURSE". Prezi Business.
  5. ^ In Print. Giacomo, D., & Weissmark, M. (1985). An "Overweight" anorectic family. Journal of Systemic Therapies, 4 (1), 61-68.
  6. ^ In Print. Giacomo, D., & Weissmark, M. (1986). Systemic practice. Family process, 25 (4), 483-512.
  7. ^ In Print. Giacomo, D., & Weissmark, M. (1987). Toward a generative theory of the therapeutic field. Family process, 26 (4), 437-459.
  8. ^ In Print. Weissmark, M., & Giacomo, D. (1995). Measuring therapeutic interactions: clinical and research applications. Psychiatry: Interpersonal and Biological Processes, 58, 173-188.
  9. ^ "Mechanisms of action in psychotherapy." Giacomo, D., & Weissmark, M. (1992). The Journal of Psychotherapy Practice and Research, 1 (1), 37-48.
  10. ^ "A therapeutic index: measuring therapeutic actions in psychotherapy." Weissmark, M., & Giacomo, D. (1994). Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 62 (2), 315-323.
  11. ^ "Doing Psychotherapy Effectively." Weissmark, M. & Giacomo, D. (1998). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
  12. ^ " Psychosocial themes in the lives of children of Nazis and children of survivors." Archived 2008-10-02 at the Wayback Machine Weissmark, M., Giacomo, D., & Kuphal, I. (1993). Journal of Narrative and Life History, 3(4), 319-335.
  13. ^ "Healing the Pain of the Holocaust: Organizer Mona Weissmark, a lecturer and researcher on psychology in the Department of Psychiatry organizes a historic four-day conference sponsored by the Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry" Harvard University Gazette, September 4, 1992.
  14. ^ On Video. (1993, March 16). "Journey to understanding." In Dateline, NBC, New York: NBC. A 20 minute television program about the meeting Weissmark organized in Germany for the descendants of Nazis and holocaust survivors.
  15. ^ "Lancing the Past: Reconciliation is the goal when descendants of slaves, owners meet." Chicago Tribune, Tempo section. June 2, 1995.
  16. ^ "Revisiting the Past to Transform the Future: Children of Holocaust Survivors, Children of Nazis Meet" Psychiatric Times, June, 1993
  17. ^ "From Generation to Generation: Mona Weissmark was a leader in bringing together members of groups locked in age-old conflicts" The Jerusalem Report, Books section, December 13, 2004.
  18. ^ "Generational Healing: A daughter of Holocaust survivors comes to terms with past for the sake of the future." Chicago Tribune, Womannews section, February 18, 2004.
  19. ^ "Do they feel our Pain? Veronique Mistiaen meets the woman who helps children of Holocaust survivors and Nazis accept their mutual past" The Guardian, May 31, 2004.
  20. ^ "Book strikes chord of reconciliation of the Holocaust: The possibility of a future free from the damaging legacy of the past is the challenge Mona Weissmark faces herself and poses to others", JUF News, Vol. 34 No 2, February 2004.
  21. ^ "Seeing the Other Side—60 years after Buchenwald." JUF News, May 2007
  22. ^ "‘Justice Matters’: Coming to terms with the legacy of the Holocaust: How a scholar’s effort to help children deal with the Nazi past has cast light on her own personal journey", JUF News, Vo.35 No2, February 2005.
  23. ^ Weissmark, M. (November 4, 2017). "Teaching and Writing About Diversity: Worldwide students respond to diversity taught through a scientific lens". Psychology Today.
  24. ^ Weissmark, M. (August 17, 2017). "The Virtues of Science-Based Thinking". Psychology Today.
  25. ^ Weissmark, M. (July 28, 2017). "Why Are Conversations on Race Often Futile?". Psychology Today.
  26. ^ Weissmark, M. (July 12, 2016). "Lessons Learned From Auschwitz". Psychology Today.
  27. ^ Weissmark, Mona (November 9, 2017). "Why Diversity Programs Fail - Radio Interview With Ethan Bearman KGO Radio".
  28. ^ Weissmark, Mona (January 9, 2018). "Why Do Diversity Programs Fail?". Psychology Today. Retrieved January 29, 2018.
  29. ^ Weissmark, M. (February 7, 2018). "Outlawing bias is doomed to fail". Psychology Today.
  30. ^ Weissmark, M. (February 12, 2019). "Reducing polarization: What works?". Psychology Today.
  31. ^ Weissmark, M. (July 10, 2019). "What is justice?". Psychology Today.
  32. ^ Weissmark, Mona (February 14, 2018). "Commentary: Can the world agree upon a 'common memory' of the Holocaust?". Chicago Tribune.
  33. ^ Weissmark, Mona (May 8, 2018). "Are There Any Solutions to Group Polarization?". Psychology Today. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
  34. ^ Kadaba, Lini (July 24, 2018). "Educating Beyond Boundaries". Issuu Inc.
  35. ^ Weissmark, Mona (Aug 8, 2018). "Evaluating Psychology Research". Psychology Today.
  36. ^ Weissmark, Mona (November 14, 2018). "Are There Effective Ways to Reduce Bias and Prejudice?". Psychology Today.
  37. ^ Weissmark, Mona (October 14, 2019). "Why Diversity Training Doesn't Work". The Fix Podcast.
  38. ^ Weissmark, Mona (April 29, 2019). "If Banning Bias Doesn't Work, What Will?". The Fix Podcast. Retrieved November 8, 2019.
  39. ^ Mona, Weissmark (August 8, 2018). "Evaluating Psychology Research". Psychology Today. Retrieved June 4, 2019.
  40. ^ Weissmark, Mona (November 14, 2018). "Are There Effective Ways to Reduce Bias and Prejudice?". Psychology Today. Retrieved June 4, 2019.

External links[edit]