Teaching and Research
Professor Luria was known as a passionate teacher and mentor to students, especially women. In recognition of her teaching excellence she was awarded the Jackson College Teaching Award in 1969 and the Seymour Simches Award for Distinguished Teaching and Advising in 1997.
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Professor Luria was a pioneering voice in the study of gender identity, conducting research into the ways in which children develop their ideas about gender which was in direct opposition to the biological theories espoused at the time. Her contributions were seminal in the academic field of developmental psychology and also made their way into the wider world beyond academia.
Her research sometimes involved Tufts students, including a study comparing the attitudes toward work of recent Jackson College graduates from 1967 and 1968 to their cohorts from 1969 and 1970, finding significant differences between the groups. The study found that the later group exhibited substantially higher motivation to work, particularly when their youngest child was aged two to six years old. Additionally, the study found that marriage had less influence on the career planning of the later group than it did on that of the earlier group.
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"What I am asking you to help me do is build up a prospective picture, i.e., what is it like for a biology major fresh out of college trying to get a job; or a psych major whose husband's job moves her to South Dakota; or an English major juggling a job or school and a baby. What kinds of life decisions do women make before and after marriage; before and after children? How does a woman decide when to return to work after raising children? The answers to these questions and others are important in building up this picture-- a picture of an area that has been largely neglected by psychologists in the past."– Zella Luria, introductory invitation letter to prospective participants in Jackson College study.
Professor Luria was also part of the team who worked on the multiple personality disorder case made famous by the movie "Three Faces of Eve" Additionally, she co-authored Psychology of Human Sexuality (1979) and the widely used textbook Human Sexuality (1987), as well as numerous articles.