Professor Leon Mann

Citation for the Award of Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa)

Professor Leon Mann is a distinguished psychologist and eminent graduate of the University of Melbourne. After receiving honours and masters degrees in Psychology at the University, he completed his PhD at Yale University and took up an Assistant Professorship at Harvard University. In collaboration with such luminaries as Irving Janis and Stanley Milgram he began the path-breaking studies of decision making, attitude change and obedience for which he would become well known internationally. Appointed to a Professorship at Flinders University at the age of 35, he established a vigorous program of application-ready research that he brought to this University when he returned to a Professorship in the Melbourne Business School from 1991 to 2003. During this time and since appointment as a Professorial Fellow in the School of Psychological Sciences from 2003, Leon Mann has served his field and his university with great dedication and distinction.

Leon Mann is best known for his pioneering scholarship on decision-making and particularly for his book Decision making: A psychological analysis of conflict, choice and commitment, co-authored with Irving Janis. Cited prolifically in the decision making literature, it is possibly the most scientifically influential psychology volume by an Australian author. Unusually for its time, the book approached personal decision making not as an exercise in utilitarian calculation but as a conflict-laden process frequently bound up in emotion, doubt, avoidance, rationalisation, and social pressures.  Moving from analysis and diagnosis of poor decisions in the personal, group, organisational, political and military spheres, the work offered powerful prescriptions for improving decision making. In addition to this research, Professor Mann’s more than 130 research publications include major contributions to the study of attitudes, aggression in crowds, queue behaviour, cross-cultural psychology, team and organisational leadership, and team innovation and communication.

Professor Mann’s research is noteworthy for its applied and translational impact. His work on decision-making and conflict has inspired countless applications in the domains of medicine, mental health, and organisational behaviour. He helped pioneer the decision counselling tools that have been applied in vocational guidance and relationship advice, as well as decision aids and interventions used to assist clients and patients facing difficult choices about fertility and contraception, cancer screening and treatment, and end-of-life decisions. Professor Mann also developed widely used instruments for measuring people’s decision making styles which have helped advance our understanding of cross-cultural differences in decision making and how these differences can be bridged.

Professor Mann has made unparalleled contributions to scientific psychology and the social sciences through a range of major leadership roles. He has served as editor of the country’s foremost psychology journal, the Australian Journal of Psychology (1981-86), as President of its peak body, the Australian Psychological Society (1987-88), and as President of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia (2001-03). He also served for 13 years on the Australian Academy of the Sciences’ National Committee for Psychology, fostered connections between the social sciences and CSIRO through joint symposia and a visiting CSIRO Flagship Fellowship, and was deputy chair of an Australian Research Council panel. His service and leadership outside academia have also been wide-ranging, including many consultative and delegate roles in governmental and community bodies.

Professor Mann has contributed tireless service to the University during an association that extends nearly 60 years from 1956, the year he came to the University as a student. During his leadership as a Professor and Professorial Fellow since 1991, he represented the University as Chair of a Universitas 21 review panel, co-founded the University’s Senior Research Mentors Program and co-founded the Summer School for Indigenous postgraduate research students, which has more than 200 alumni. Professor Mann’s scientific achievements and commitment to mentoring and assisting the development of researchers at all stages of their careers are exemplary and inspiring.