Dr. Joyce Brothers, first T.V. psychologist, passes away at 85

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drjoycebrothers2Dr. Joyce Brothers, perhaps the most famous psychologist in the world over the past 50 years died at home on May 13, 2013. The first media “shrink”, she was 85. Brothers expired due to respiratory failure.

Although attracting media coverage in the beginning due to her incongruous expertise in the sport of boxing, she became and remained famous and admired for her concise, no-nonsense tone, mixed with her ability to communicate genuine concern and sympathy through the mass media. Compared with all other “pop psychologists”, both of her time and today, she was noted the for straight-forward, understandable advice she gave to the television public.

While her academic credentials were top-notch, her consoling counsel was always relayed in everyday English, never moving into the sometimes confusing language of formal or theoretical scientific psychology. Brothers’ advice, theories and recommendations were presented via regular newspaper articles, once syndicated in more than 300 papers. She also wrote a column in Good Housekeeping Magazine for many years. In addition, Dr. Brothers was the author of several books that made the best-seller lists. However, the most popular method of sharing her insights was by taking advantage of her ubiquitous television presence.


Brothers was never one to shy away from discussing topics that had previously been unknown on the new medium of television. The appearance of this frank, straight-shooting, female doctor, willing to talk about any formerly taboo subject coincided with American society’s movement to a much more open, sexual, and mature stage. At least in terms of what people were allowed to say and hear on T.V.

“I invented media psychology,” she once said. “I was the first. The founding mother.”

As well as the pioneer of mass-media psychology, Dr. Brothers was a a participant in the accidental creation of reality T.V. Her original fame came not from already being a therapist on the air, but from her stint as a contestant on the most popular game show of its day, “The $64,000 Question.”

Whether it was intended as a stunt, or a slight at the slight (5’0″) female doctor, it was announced that the subject matter of her questions on the quiz show would be boxing. Making use of her ability to study intensely, and her nearly perfect recall, she became a national sensation, week by week, by answering every boxing question put to her. She was able to answer them all correctly, even the most mundane, trivial queries concerning the long history of pugilism. After she answered the final question , and won the princely (in the 1950’s) sum of $64,000, it was questioned whether the show was on the up-and-up, or was she provided with the answers. Was it reality, or a scripted entertainment. No proof of a fix was ever found and her accomplishment remains untainted.

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