Dr. Joyce Brothers, famed TV psychologist, dies at 85

Dr. Joyce Brothers, a psychologist who became a pop-culture fixture after she turned to radio and television in the late 1950s to tend to the nation’s psyche, has died. She was 85.

Brothers died Monday in New York City, publicist Sanford Brokaw told the Associated Press. No cause was given.

By ministering to America via the airwaves and in print, Brothers helped bring psychology into the mainstream of society, according to the American Psychological Assn.

When Brothers’ psychological expertise was first showcased on NBC in 1958, she “paved the way for others in her field to bring their talents to television,” according to the Paley Center for Media Study in New York.

Aided by an engaging on-screen presence, she could publicly address – without offending listeners –  what were then borderline taboo subjects such as sexual fulfillment and infidelity. It was a jarring and significant achievement in the 1950s and 1960s, when television’s fictional couples were still portrayed as sleeping in separate beds.

Before she jumped from the halls of academe to pioneer what became known as “media psychology,” Brothers made a name for herself by winning big on the popular TV quiz show “The $64,000 Question.”

Joyce Diane Bauer was born Oct. 29, 1927, in New York City to Morris and Estelle Bauer, lawyers who practiced together and raised their two children on Long Island. Her younger sister, Elaine, became a lawyer and judge.

While earning her bachelor’s degree in home economics from Cornell University, Brothers developed an interest in psychology. At Columbia, she studied psychology, earning a master’s degree in 1950 and a doctorate three years later. She wrote her dissertation on anxiety avoidance and escape behavior.

A complete obituary will follow at latimes.com/obits

--Valerie J. Nelson, Los Angeles Times