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Petteri Pietikainen and Jesper Vaczy Kragh

The history of psychology in the Nordic countries has distinct similarities among the countries. For centuries, close cultural and scientific ties have existed between the five countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden). Almost without exception, early Nordic university psychologists were inspired by German experimental psychology of the late 19th century. It became an almost mandatory part of their training to study psychology in Wilhelm Wundt’s laboratory in Leipzig or at similar institutions in Germany. The German model also served as an inspiration for psychological laboratories, which were established in the Nordic countries from the late 1880s onward. The first chair in psychology was established in Denmark in 1919, when Alfred Lehmann was appointed professor at the University of Copenhagen, and during the next decades Sweden, Norway, and Finland, respectively, followed suit. Following the strong ethos of governmental social planning that was emphasized all over Western Europe in the postwar decades, Nordic psychologists aligned themselves with the state in general and with the formation of the (social-democratic) welfare state in particular. Throughout this era, applied psychology occupied a major role in psychology. At first, psychologists were engaged in “psychotechnics,” including aptitude testing, personnel selection, and vocational guidance and counseling. Then, in the postwar decades, clinical psychology became an increasingly important part of applied psychology. One could say that psychology was heavily engaged in the adjustment policy in working life, education, and counseling in all Nordic countries. At the turn of the millennium, Nordic psychology appeared to have more research into psychological disorders and psychophysiological and neuroscience research than the rest of the world, and less on educational psychology. Within the Nordic countries, Finland and Sweden form one cluster with higher proportions of psychophysiological studies, and Denmark and Norway another cluster with higher relative proportions of psychological articles dealing with health treatment and prevention. All the Nordic countries have a very high number of psychologists in relation to their populations, and psychologists have a visible societal role as “architects of adjustment” who help individuals to find their place in society.


There is intense contemporary public as well as professional psychological interest in bodily movement, gesture, and the subjective experience of movement. This has a background in knowledge that movements and the sensing of movements alike express the life of the whole person, whether in the arts, sports, and the pursuit of well-being, or in physiotherapies and psychotherapies of many kinds. The background of the numerous and varied areas of scientific research that contribute to this area has a long history in philosophy and cultural practices as well as in relations between different psychological and physiological topics. The significance of the sense of self-movement, kinesthesia, as opposed to the perception of moving objects, has not until recently been a central focus for research. To explain rising contemporary interest it is necessary to elucidate the usage of current terms—kinesthesia, proprioception, and haptic sense. This in turn leads to discussion of the historical background to modern research on kinesthesia and motor imagery, on phenomenology and sensed movement, on practice centered on kinesthetic appreciation, and on agency. All this is part of the field of inquiry into the psychology of performing and of appreciating dance.


Jeanne Marecek and Eva Magnusson

Qualitative inquiry is a form of psychological research that seeks in-depth understanding of people and their social worlds. Qualitative researchers typically study the experiences of people as meaning-making agents, relying on verbal material. Qualitative inquiry has a long history in psychology, beginning in the 19th century with founders of psychology like William James and Wilhelm Wundt. However, for much of the 20th century, qualitative inquiry has occupied a marginal position in the discipline. This marginalization is best understood in relation to the discipline’s early struggle to be regarded as legitimate. Adopting the methods of the natural sciences—notably quantification and measurement—was a means to that end. Qualitative approaches, though suppressed for much of the 20th century, were not entirely eliminated from the field. Personality theorists, for example, continued to make use of them. The 1970s marked the advent of new forms of qualitative inquiry in psychology, which drew from a variety of intellectual and philosophical movements. These developments continued to gain acceptance and adherents. Since the turn of the 20th century, national and international organizations of qualitative researchers in psychology have been established. Venues for publishing qualitative research in psychology have increased. Nonetheless, qualitative inquiry is still marginalized in many academic psychology departments, and training in qualitative methods is seldom part of the methods curriculum.