Maria Lewicka_fot. Magdalena Wiśniewska-Krasińska_Archiwum FNP

Professor Maria Lewicka, from the Faculty of Philosophy and Social Sciences at Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, has been awarded the 2023 FNP Prize in the field of humanities and social sciences for formulating and validating a psychological model of place attachment and place memory.

Maria Lewicka was born in 1949 in Toruń. She graduated from the Institute of Psychology at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań in 1972. She earned her doctorate in psychology from the Faculty of Psychology at the University of Warsaw in 1978 and obtained her habilitation in 1993. She held research fellowships at the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague, Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, and the University of Bergen in Norway. From 1993 to 2004, she served as a professor at the Institute of Psychology, University of Tromsø, Norway. From 1996 to 2016, she held a position of a professor at the Faculty of Psychology, University of Warsaw, achieving full professorship in 2013. Since 2016, she has been instrumental in developing the psychology degree program at Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń. Concurrently, she has led the Department of Psychology at the Faculty of Humanities (now Faculty of Philosophy and Social Sciences) of this university since 2016. Additionally, she served as the Director of the Institute of Psychology from 2019 to 2022 and currently heads the Department of Social and Environmental Psychology at the same institute.

Lewicka is a social and environmental psychologist. Her research interests include the rationality of thought and action, social valuation and evaluation processes, social perception, and intergroup relations. She also focuses on the psychology of emotional bonds with the place of residence, place identity, and place memory. Other areas of interest encompass place attachment, human behavior in urban settings, cognitive maps of the environment, collective memory, social activity and passivity, as well as social and cultural capital. Her research extends to Central-East Europe, with a particular emphasis on Ukraine and Lithuania.

Lewicka has authored numerous scientific articles and book chapters, including two books: Psychologia Miejsca (Psychology of Place) and Aktor czy Obserwator: Psychologiczne Mechanizmy Odchyleń od Racyjonalności w Myśleniu Potocznym‘ (Actor or Observer: Psychological Mechanisms of Deviations from Rationality in Lay Reasoning). From 2006 to 2013, she served as the editor-in-chief of the journal Psychologia Społeczna (now Social Psychological Bulletin) and was a member of the editorial boards of several Polish and international journals, spanning the fields of social psychology, environmental psychology, and urban studies. In recognition of her contribution to the development of social psychology in Europe, Lewicka was awarded the Jean-Paul Codol Medal in 2008. In 2017, she received the medal for outstanding scientific achievements from the Polish Social Psychological Society. In 2022, she was elected as a member of Academia Europaea. Additionally, she holds membership in the Committee on Psychological Sciences of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

Professor Maria Lewicka, from the Faculty of Philosophy and Social Sciences at Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, has been awarded the 2023 FNP Prize in the field of humanities and social sciences for formulating and validating a psychological model of place attachment and place memory.

Lewicka’s work involves the development of an original psychological model that explores human attachment to the place of residence and the associated place memory. This model has garnered significant international interest. It comprehensively addresses the factors influencing one’s connection to a place, the diverse forms this connection can take in our modern, globalized, and mobile world, as well as its consequential impact. Lewicka’s model highlights the fundamental role that place attachment and place memory play in the overall psychological and social functioning of human beings.

In 2003, Lewicka initiated the first studies to investigate how individuals’ interest in the past, family roots, and their place of residence—specifically, local history—affect their current attitudes. These studies revealed that individuals with an interest in the history of a place tend to be more active and socially engaged. They form stronger interpersonal relationships, possess higher cultural capital, and exhibit a deeper emotional attachment to their current place of residence. These compelling results motivated Lewicka to delve deeper into this theme.

Over the subsequent years, in her quest to understand the role of place in human psychological functioning, she conducted numerous studies in cities across Poland, Ukraine, and Lithuania. Her analysis extended beyond the physical aspects of the urban environment, such as gated neighborhoods and building types, focusing particularly on social ties like neighborhood connections and various forms of social capital. Through this approach, Lewicka developed an original model illustrating how a strong place attachment and cultural capital drive civic activity.

Lewicka has shown a particular interest in cities that underwent changes in their state affiliation after the Second World War, resulting in a complete transformation of their national and ethnic composition—examples include Wrocław, Szczecin, and Lviv. These cities owe their present identity largely to inhabitants from different ethnic or national groups than their original population. Lewicka and her team uncovered an ethnocentric memory bias, denoting the ethnocentrism inherent in local memory. They discovered that residents of cities with altered national compositions tend to view the history of these places almost exclusively through the lens of their ethnic group. For instance, they project the current ethnic composition onto the historical demographic makeup, thereby overestimating the size and contributions of their own group. In this way, Lewicka has contributed to the social and psychological understanding of collective memory by identifying a new intergroup bias. Furthermore, her research revealed that individuals with a more ethnocentric perception of local history also display a more ethnocentric attitude in the present. However, Lewicka’s studies also highlighted the positive role of spontaneous interest in local history in fostering both attachment to a place and openness to its historical diversity. The findings demonstrated that individuals interested in local history tend to be more tolerant and open to otherness and multiculturalism. This interest doesn’t pertain to grand national histories, often dominated by official historical policies, but rather to the history of one’s small homeland—be it a city, neighborhood, street, or building. Exploring local history and engaging in self-exploration in this context fosters an openness to diversity, reduces ethnocentrism, and becomes a crucial component of one’s cultural capital. Additionally, delving into local history provides individuals with a sense of continuity and stability, thereby fostering attachment to the place and enhancing local identity. In summary, Maria Lewicka’s studies provide insights into how to cultivate inhabitants’ identification with a place in a manner free of ethnocentrism, recognizing and respecting all ethnic and national groups that have contributed to the formation of that place.

Professor Maria Lewicka’s work on place memory has had a profound impact on the social sciences, extending well beyond psychology, particularly through the advancement of research on collective memory. The majority of Lewicka’s publications have appeared in leading psychology journals, garnered thousands of citations, and have become landmarks in this field of study. Many institutions and organizations across Poland now conduct their practical activities based on the concepts of place memory and place attachment developed by Lewicka, including the Forum for Dialogue, Auschwitz Jewish Centre, and the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews.



Fot. Magdalena Wiśniewska-Krasińska