In memoriam Prof János László

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Dear Friends, Dear Colleagues,

János has departed. After a disease borne with courage and patience, he found eternal rest on 25 January afternoon. He left a lot to us. He left thoughtfulness, creativity, activity, experience, friendship and love.

We were not prepared for János’s departure. We knew he was seriously ill and we worried whenever receiving bad news concerning his health, but we believed that he would overcome his disease and return to us. He left an immense heritage as well as an immense burden on us. We are convinced that he would have not left us if he had not had to do so if he had had any chance to stay. We still had a lot to ask him about and there was no time left. Now we need time to receive the weight of our loss.

János was a man of stature. With a pragmatic attitude, he based his groundbreaking ideas on the reality of everyday life. He was an innovative scholar, a sage who told stories, a teacher who showed the right paths, a strict and demanding boss, an understanding and loving friend, a fascinating discussion partner – and all these together, all these for us. He was an ideal and – borrowing the word from Giovanna Leone – a Maestro.

János has laid the foundations of scientific narrative psychology. He created knowledge where he found a gap. First of all, he found a gap in the empirical approach to the close relationship between memory and identity where he created something new and unique. His work is based on an extensive knowledge spanning across psychology, history, linguistics, literature and theatre, this latter as both theory and experience.

It is hard to tell a story now – not only a good story but any story. It needs time to hear the voice of memories.

We have created this web page where all of us can pay tribute and express condolences. Dear Friends and Colleagues, all memories and thoughts to share are welcome.


Submitted by James Liu (not verified) on

I'd like to add some words of tribute to Janos Laszlo who was a great and generous friend and a deep and thoughtful colleague. Janos was far ahead of his time as a theoretical psychologist and as an architect of the science of examining the power of language in representation. His professional stance was shaped by the Soviet and post-Soviet eras of Hungary: his style was very central European, with deep rooted scholarship that is rare in today's world of micro-empiricism. Janos had a big picture of psychology that I admired greatly. His books on the science of narrative (the Science of Stories in his terms) were truly ground-breaking, and it is a pity that only in the passage of time that he will no longer bear witness to that we will see their long-term impact unfold. His unique combination of mastering the deep, qualitative literature, and his empirical & automated computer analysis machinery working with his younger colleagues turning this to science was, in my opinion, a rare alchemy turning ideas to gold. Tibor Polya's work with Janos on perspective taking in narrative accounts published in EJSP was an excellent example of this. I picture him with a cigarette in hand, navigating through the still labyrinthic tunnels of the Hungarian academy and its unique society, always with a wry but never jaded sense of humor, and a twinkle in his eye that no amount of administrative or political stupidity could ever dim. One of his more fascinating empirical and theoretical claims was that the Hungarians lacked a "win-lose-win" schema of their national history- they were accustomed to think of themselves as hard done by, they were accustomed to think of themselves as "victims" of history. This is being played out in quite tragic ways in Hungary at the moment in terms of the blame game and the rise of the new right. I look forward to returning to Hungary in April to share with Janos' students his intellectual and social and spiritual legacy, doing good science and also having something important to say about society. It will be with great sadness, but also joy that he has such a strong legacy in Pecs and Budapest. We will witness this once again one more time, firsthand as a tribute to Janos. As we research history and psychology in April we will be sharing in a toast to the memory of Janos Laszlo, not just in drink, but in spirit and in the celebration of his life. On a more personal note, I owe a great deal to Janos Laszlo. One of the "critical junctures" in my life was after I'd given a lecture at Pecs in 2006 and detected a strange numbness in my hand, and an unsteadiness in my walk. I thought I'd become dehydrated and called Janos, who was working in his office. He had a look at me, and immediately made the correct diagnosis. That moment has affected my and my family's life to this day. He said, in that deep baritone of his, "Jim, come. I will take you to the hospital". The doctor saw me immediately. and put me on a drip that dilated my blood vessels, and lessened the impact of the 2nd stroke that came about 45 minutes later and put me into convalescence. If the blood vessels in my brain had not been dilated, I doubt I would have been able to continue as a psychologist and researcher today- even so I was 6 months in recovery. So it with great thanks, great love, and great sadness that I bid Janos Laszlo farewell.  You were a great friend, a dear colleague, and someone that I will always admire. To his partner Dette, his students with whom I have shared many happy moments with Janos, Sara, Orsi, Tibor, Eva, my heartfelt condolences. With LoveJim

Submitted by Laurent Licata (not verified) on

 Dear János,  You belonged to that class of persons who do not only take the lead, but who also turn around to hold the door open for others. We first met a long time ago, but really got to know each other at the "Small Group Meeting on Collective remembering, collective emotions and shared representations of history" that Denis Hilton, James Liu, Bernard Rimé and Wolfgang Wagner had organized in Aix-en-Provence in 2004. We had the feeling that something exciting was happening at that meeting, and you endeavoured to give it a follow up. So you gathered people across Europe and we wrote and submitted two projects on collective memories, social identities, and intergroup relations, unsuccessfully, alas. But you were not the kind of person that gives up so easily. Later on, you suggested us to try to obtain a COST Action (I had never heard of it), and you asked me to lead the project. As you carefully neglected to inform me of the enormity of the task, I naively accepted and we were lucky enough to get through the selection process. This was the beginning of our Action on "Social psychological dynamics of historical representations". We are now at the very middle of it. From our small group of about 20, we are now more than 150 social psychologists and historians to exchange ideas and collaborate in researching the interconnections between social identities, collective memories, narratives, and intergroup relations. This is a seed that you once planted and that is now blooming. I regret so much that you will not see its conclusion. So long, János, and thank you, Laurent 

Submitted by Wolfgang Wagner (not verified) on

I lost a good friend and inspiring colleague. He will be remembered.

Submitted by Tony Manstead (not verified) on

Janos and I spent 6 years together on the committee of the European Association of Social Psychology. He was a highly dependable member of the committee, where his contributions were always generous and thoughtful. When he talked about his own research he gave the impression of being an old-fashioned (in the best sense of the term) scholar, with a wide-ranging knowledge. And in his interactions with others, there was always kindness, warmth and humour. He will be missed by friends and colleagues within and beyond European social psychology.

Submitted by Fritz Strack (not verified) on

It was with great sadness that I learned of János' passing. For me, he was a face that has shaped the EASP. There was no General Meeting where I did not spend time with him, laugh with him, and reminisce. He visited us in Trier where we had an unforgettable walk through the vinyards. His deep voice and his wonderful smile left a profound trace in my brain, both in the prefrontal cortex and in the emotional system. I was so glad to meet im in Amsterdam and see his contributions acknowledged.I'll miss you, János!Fritz    

Submitted by Calegari Paolo (not verified) on

Arrivederci Janos. Grazie. Ti ricordi ? Vevey 1962?

Submitted by Paula Castro (not verified) on

János could indeed open doors. We first met in Pecs in 2001 - in a wonderful Meeting, where several of the colleagues I met I later came to proudly count as friends. János could help this happen – friendship amidst colleagues - , and for it I am very grateful to him. And then he could join friends and colleagues for committed, ambitious work, and this left quite a legacy for social psychology.I recall with admiration János capacity for offering his full attention when engaged in conversation: a person who could really see his interlocutor. Of course I recall the stories he loved to tell and shared, for instance, in Budapest or Goldegg.I fondly recall the ever-present sparkle in János eyes.Goodbye János, thank you. Paula

Submitted by Peter Weinreich (not verified) on

Janos: A memorable visitI had learnt from István Csertő, a student and colleague of Janos Laszlo, a while ago the unsettling news that Janos was ill. Janos was interested in the work on identity using the Ipseus computer software that was being presented at a workshop on ISA in London by me and colleagues, and had asked István to attend to find out more. The result of István’s attendance was an invitation from Janos for me to present workshops to colleagues and students at the Universities of Pécs and Budapest in 2012.  Janos was a remarkable host and was enthusiastic in discussion, and his students gave memorable insights into the work he was spearheading with them. What was immediately significant was the breadth of his scholarship and detailed knowledge covering many disciplines. His generosity and animated discussions with him were a tonic. He was a master of excellence and originality, and open to wide-ranging ideas. It is with great sadness that he is no longer with us. 

Submitted by Prof. Andrea Ab... (not verified) on

I met Janos many times at EASP meetings and it was always meeting a good friend. Our last meeting was in Petzs where he organized a wonderful conference together with Joe Forgas - I would never have thought that this would be our last meeting - so sad! Tschüss, Janos, Andrea

Submitted by Vivian Vignoles (not verified) on

I am extremely sad to hear this unexpected news. Although we never collaborated, I was privileged to meet Janos at small group meetings and conferences over the last 15 years. He was one of the people I especially looked forward to bumping into at meetings--the last time in Amsterdam--and the richness of his work and breadth of his vision have been an inspiration to me. Just a few weeks ago, Radmila and I were delighted that he agreed to serve as Consulting Editor for EJSP. European Social Psychology has lost one of its most distinctive voices, but we will carry on his work. Thank you to Janos' colleagues and students for the beautiful tribute at the top of this page. My thoughts are with you at this difficult time! Viv.

Submitted by Anja Podlesek (not verified) on

If I had to use a single word, I would use WARM. This is what you were and how I will remember you. You were the one that I sat beside at my first dinner when I was introduced to the Alps-Adria Scientific Committee in Klagenfurt, and I remember well how I felt that evening. I felt accepted and you contributed a great deal to that. For me this group is not only a group of great scholars, but most of all a group of friends. I will remember you as always smiling and considerate, and with great enthusiasm for your students. My sincere condolence to your family and colleagues.

Submitted by Els Andringa (not verified) on

 With great sadness I read that Janos has passed away. As I did not visit the last few Igel conferences, it is a long time ago since I have seen him, but I have fond memories of his presence at Igels and symposia in between. We have shared interests in the fundamental social and psychological meaning of literature for as long as Igel exists, i.e. since the ninety-eighties. I remember the delightful conference at Pecs that he had arranged and the pleasant discussions we had there. I hope that his spirit and interests will be continued by his students inside as well as outside Hungary. Els Andringa (former president Igel) 

Submitted by Department of P... (not verified) on

We are very sad to hear about the loss of Prof. Janos Laszlo. We had the honor to collaborate with him and have him at our Psychology Days meetings in Zadar. His passing away is certainly a loss for the field of Social Psychology and psychology in general. The memory of him and his work will remain among us. Our sincere condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues. 

Submitted by Gerald Cupchik (not verified) on

In March of 1989, Janos arranged for me to give a lecture in Pecs. Fresh off the plane from Canada, I got into his little Trabant..surely a museum piece of technology..and began our long drive. I looked out onto the road ahead of us and pointed out that we were driving through a cloud of greenish-yellow gases from the exhaust systems of cars which had passed that way before us. I complained that he was trying to poison me even before my lecture. Janos laughed and, with his deep radio announcer voice, said "Don't worry Cupchik, it will make your lecture more interesting!" And in August of 2002, at the IGEL Conress in Pecs,I was able to fulfill my life long dream of being a train conductor! Janos arranged with his brother-in-law, who knew the conductor, for Robert Hogenraad and me to "drive" up front in t he engine. We set off on the two hour trip to Budapest. Everyone figured that Robert and I would get bored after 15 minutes and join the rest of them in the passanger cars. No way!! We felt a responsibility to help keep the train on the tracks..,. I was even worried about looking away and wondered why stupid birds would remain on the rails even as the train approached. As we entered the station in Budapest, Robert and I waived to the people waiting on the platform. What a fun memory!I can always look back as a scholar to the productive year that Janos, Flora, and Sara spent in Toronto in 1990, our collaboration in liteary text processing and our co-editing of the "Emerging Visions" volume for Cambridge University Press.But I prefer to remember the fun times and will always hear Janos' deep voice and his laughter. This is how we preserve our friends in our souls. 

Submitted by Alessio Nencini (not verified) on

I had the honour to be a student of Janos. Actually, as he always pointed out with respect, “partly his” student. I spent three months in Pécs and Budapest during my PhD and Janos, Sara, Orsi and all the department welcomed me sweetly, like a family.
Janos influenced my academic career since my graduate thesis: my interests for the interrelations between social psychology and literature made me necessarily follow his writings, first, and his teachings, later. After that, he had a relevant impact on the research for my PhD, introducing me to the (automatic) content analysis of literary texts and to the narrative approach to social identity and social representations.
Most of all, Janos has been a real Maestro for me, more widely and deeply than an academic supervisor or a professor: he showed me the beauty and charm of doing research with passion, of discussing and confronting with interdisciplinary interlocutors, and of appreciating the intimate relationship between living, studying, enjoying, participating and doing research.
And now I feel a great loss, not only and particularly for his presence (last time I saw Janos was more than two years ago) but, more seriously, in my narrative identity, because a significant story that shaped who I am has now come to an end.

Thank you, Janos.

Submitted by Gerald Cupchik (not verified) on

<p>Janos and I spent wonderful times together, in addition to collaborating on the "Emerging Visions" volume back in 1992. It was with pleasure that I hosted him and his duaghters Sara and Flora at the University of Toronto for a year in 1990. We had great fun doing Reader Response studies and laughing about life. Even in this sad moment, I look back to visiting Budapest, his cottage on the Balaton, hosting our Russian colleagues in Budapest during the early '90s...and many other events. Janos has his own room in my soul.</p>

Submitted by Joe Forgas (not verified) on

 I have known Janos Laszlo for over thirty years, and we have become very close friends and colleagues over the years. His tragic and all too early death has left me shocked and devastated, and his departure will leave a huge void in my heart.    Janos first visited me when I was at the University of Giessen in 1982, and since then we have developed a very close friendship. I am a regular visitor to Budapest, and the highlight of all my visits has been our frequent meetings and lunches with Janos, and Detti. Janos was not only a warm and kind friend, he also had a wonderfully mischievous sense of humour, he was deeply knowledgeable and interested in all aspects of culture, politics and public life, he was incredibly enthusiastic about his work, and so spending time with him was always stimulating and enjoyable.    Over the years we also collaborated successfully a number of times, and published joint papers on the emerging political landscape in Hungary after the collapse of communism, on linguistic communication and other issues as well. I am especially grateful to Janos for recommending that my book on 'Interpersonal behaviour' be translated into Hungarian, for arranging its publication, and most importantly, for preparing an incredibly good translation. The book is still in print after many years, and I am absolutely sure that its continuing success is mostly due to Janos' fantastic translation.    Most recently, in 2012, Janos, Orsolya and I jointly organised a small group meeting on language and social cognition in Pecs, and the contributions were recently published under our joint editorship. The ground-breaking work of Janos and his colleagues on the quantitative analysis of language to identify psychological processes associated with identity formation and maintenance as well as the creation of historical narratives has provided an entirely new way to link social cognitive processes and socio-cultural representations. Janos’ seminal work on has also been published in English, and I am confident that in future it will be seen as a classic in analysing the role of language in psychological and cultural processes.    I find it very hard to imagine a word in which Janos will no longer be waiting for me when I visit Budapest, and I will no longer have the benefit of his warmth, intelligence, friendship, and humour. Saying a final good-bye to somebody like Janos is a tragic experience. He should have lived much longer and should have given us the joy of his company for many more years. It was not to be… good-bye my dear friend, we will think of you and remember as long as we live, and your work and contributions will live on long after we are all gone. As for Detti and Janos’ family, please accept our heartfelt condolences…  

Submitted by Michal Bilewicz (not verified) on

Two days ago I received an invitation from one of scientific social network websites with a headline „Janos Laszlo invited you to join…”. This resembles so much my feelings that Janos must still be around, leading his groups in Pecs, Budapest and bridging people from different places and disciplines. When we recently talked through skype with Sara, Zsolt and his other students, I felt like Janos must be somewhere there as well.

I met Janos during my first international conference in Aix-de-Provence. As a freshly enrolled doctoral student I still had many doubts about social psychology. Discussions with Janos were enlightening – he showed me several links between the study of language, social representations and mainstream experimental social psychology – three disciplines I was interested in, but found them completely incompatible. I was so excited to meet a person who could speak so wisely about these disciplines, being true expert in all of them. Janos convinced me that there is no conflict between different approaches in psychology, and the strength of our discipline lies in using methods developed elsewhere – from computer linguistics to anthropology.

Janos was always very supportive to East European colleagues, he organized small event in Budapest to enhance collaboration within East European members of EASP. He also promoted narrative and linguistic turn in social psychology – influencing very much psychologists in Poland, visiting us and supporting his students to collaborate with us. He was a silent spiritus movens behind many international collaborations in Europe – and probably I am aware of only small part of them.

I will always remember an evening when he took me and my wife to a restaurant on the riverbank in Budapest. Later he showed us the synagogue in Obuda, located in the middle of soviet-style housing area. This evening was full of… stories and narratives.

I learned a lot from Janos, and I am grateful for all he did for us, social psychologists.

Submitted by Alberta Contarello (not verified) on

We first met at an EAESP meeting, probably in Brighton in 1981 (although we often tried to double check whether we already met in 1974, during a visit to Budapest for an unforgettable students’ international meeting between worlds).
Already he acted as a Professor, of a different age and generation than my own. Yet, along time I discovered we were much closer and pleasantly noticed how much he got younger - a rare and splendid privilege - both in his physical shape and in his interests, energies, endeavours.
Important turning points have then been for me the outstanding Small Group Meetings in Pécs: on the narrative organization of social representations in 1995 and on theory and methods in societal psychology in 2001 as well as the meeting of the international society for the empirical study of literature in 2002. There I experienced his generous hospitality in elegant, beautiful and generative places, with rich and lively discussions around the big table and beyond. There I met bright and competent colleagues who later became friends. And pleasantly practiced how to combine intellectual exchanges with friendly and emotional sharing.
Later, our exchanges got somehow regular, although at a slow pace.
I have great memories of his visits to Padova, within our PhD Course in Social Psychology and Personality at Unipd, where he gave great and intriguing lectures, and accepted Alessio to work with him in an exchange program which should become extremely generative.
Not to mention my visits to Budapest and Pécs, mainly a sabbatical one in 2005, so full of images in a triumph of his bright and sharp (one of his best preferred words) hospitality.
Along time the General Meetings, mainly in Budapest, Lisbon, San Sebastian…and then the biannual meetings on Social Representations… Rome.. and before that… Brazil.
Rio! Lively scholarly discussions, and later … the unexpected gift of an appointment in Salvador de Bahia, at the splendid Catarina Paraguacu … do you remember, Dette? Thank you again. Meeting there, under your suggestion, was such a treat…
And at last Evora. Again a vivid visual image of Janos in the hall of M’ar de Ar Muralhas, frowning on his oncoming presentation but opening up in a friendly smile when seeing each other.

I share with friends, colleagues and his close ones my deep condolences. And I thank Sara, Orsi and all the group, as well as friends and colleagues for their prompt messages and vibrant letters. As well as for choosing that wonderful photo, with his sparkle. They helped me to let my best memories flow and to recognize that, beyond sadness, there is this deep feeling of gratitude: to have been given the gift to know Janos, with his unique way, to have exchanged with him ideas, research and experiences and – big privilege of us who work with thinking – to be able to continue to do so through his writing and legacy.

Some of you stressed his link with theatre. That was very powerful, as you said, on different grounds. As well as with narrative, as we know, and with conjunctivisation in talk and experience. Sharp and conditional. For some reason, I have a strong feeling of presence. As if he were at a close distance. As if we could meet again soon. And discuss. And re-launch. And toss with a very good glass of red, devising some new research adventure…

Grazie Janos,

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