In memoriam: Janet Bavelas

Social Sciences

- Steve Lindsay

Janet Beavin Bavelas was an experimental social psychologist in the Department of Psychology at the University of Victoria from 1970 to 2005. She was an alumnus of Stanford University, where she earned her Bachelors degree in Psychology (1961), a Masters in Communication Research (1968), and a PhD in Psychology (1970).  In 1967, while working at the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto, California, she co-authored Pragmatics of human communication, with Paul Watzlawick and Don Jackson. Cited over 12,000 times, this seminal book was hugely influential in the field of communication, particularly family and systems therapy. At University of Victoria, her research explored basic processes of face-to-face dialogue, including the integration of speech with visible communicative actions, such as co-speech hand and facial gestures. In establishing the Human Interaction Lab at UVic, she created a research space that supported video-recorded studies of communication and the conversational underpinnings of intersubjectivity and the social components of emotional alignment. Jan was fervently dedicated to teaching research methods and was an effective and supportive mentor to graduate and undergraduate students. She had a tremendous work ethic and could be quite forceful in argument, but still maintained an unpretentious down-to-earthiness. In the 1990s she would sometimes bring her two Newfoundland dogs to the Cornett building on hot summer days; they would sprawl peacefully on the cool floor tiles of the hall outside her office.

Jan was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, as well as of the Canadian Psychological Association and the International Communication Association, and in 2000 received the UVic Faculty of Social Sciences Award for Teaching Excellence. She secured many research grants (notably from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council). Along with many journal articles, Jan authored or coauthored four books. After retirement in 2005, she continued her work, maintaining research collaborations, teaching workshops internationally, publishing numerous articles, and mentoring PhD students and colleagues from around the world. Her last book, Face-to-face dialogue: Theory, research, and applications, was published by Oxford University Press in 2022. Her work has been influential, with many of her articles attracting hundreds of citations. More locally, Jan had quite profound and lasting effects on the UVic Department of Psychology, particularly as a champion of gender equity.

—Submitted by Steve Lindsay, Liz Brimacombe, Jennifer Gerwing and Sara Healing


In this story

Keywords: in memoriam, psychology, social sciences

People: Janet Bavelas

Publication: The Ring

Related stories