Zeitgeist, Ortgeist, and personalities in the development of Scandinavian psychology

Ingvar Lundberg
Published Online:
21 Sep 2010
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 36 Issue 6

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Although the Scandinavian countries Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Sweden are most often perceived as a rather homogeneous set of nations there are interesting diversities in the paths and patterns of the development of psychology. The strong experimental, neurobiological, and cognitive orientation of psychology in Finland and Sweden is contrasted with the more phenomenologically and clinically oriented psychology in Norway and Denmark. The concepts of Zeitgeist, Ortgeist, and personalities are used to explain the different courses of development in the Scandinavian countries. In Denmark and Norway a few dominant personalities in a few dominant university departments seem to have shaped the formation of psychology to a greater extent than in Finland and Sweden. The relatively late start of psychology as an independent academic discipline has opened Sweden and Finland to impulses from the Anglo‐American empirical tradition. Within‐country differences are highlighted with special reference to the Swedish development. Various local “schools” of psychology are characterized with Stockholm as the most notable example. Although psychophysics plays an insignificant role in Swedish psychology today, a pedigree with reference to Gösta Ekman demonstrates its critical and dominating role for the development of psychology in Sweden.

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