English summaries

English Summaries (02–03/2017)

Jussi Silvonen

From ”the science of the soul” to ”the psychology of behavior” – challenges of the history of psychology in Finland

Wilhelm Wundt’s laboratory is usually seen as the symbolic point of departure for the global history of psychology. In the case of Finland, it is not easy to find such a clear starting point. The first Finnish textbook of psychology was published in 1869; the first academic dissertation was publicly defended in 1887. Applied psychology started in the 1920s at the psycho-technical laboratory of the National Railroad Company. The independent academic history of psychology does not begin, however, until the 1930s with the establishment of the first psychology laboratory at the University of Helsinki, and with the first professorship at the University of Jyväskylä. Consequently, there are not one, but many beginnings in the history of Finnish psychology.

Early Finnish psychology from the 1880s to the 1930s was dominated by idealistic philosophy, with a dualistic understanding of its subject. Experimental research was able to explain only the lower domains of the human mind, and the higher domain was explained by the concept ”apperseptio” – free constructive action of the mind. Starting in the 1930s an approach declared by Eino Kaila displaced the old dualism with a new paradigm, explaining the mind with human behavior. After the Second World War, new psychometric methods were adapted, and all idealistic concepts – like apperseptio – disappeared totally from Finnish psychology. The paradigm shift from the idealistic ”science of the soul” to ”the psychology of human behavior” can be seen as a linear, progressive process where more advanced concepts replace old ones. A closer look at the transition shows us, however, that the transitional process was more complicated. Some aspects of old psychology were simply displaced, without new extensive theoretical interpretation. The transition itself was driven by many factors, and some research units outside of the university played an important role. Most effective of them was the National Bureau of Vocational Guidance.

The author argues that the history of Finnish psychology is not the story of one man, but instead a multi-voiced and multi-layered process. The ideas of the ”new history” can help us to be sensitive to this multivoicedness of our past and present psychology.

Keywords: history of psychology – Finland, the ”new history” of psychology, methods in the history of psychology, paradigm, multivoicedness, multisituatedness


Lea Pulkkinen

80 years since the first chair in psychology was established

The story of the foundation of the first chair in psychology in Finland is presented. The chair in psychology was established in 1936 at Jyväskylä Educational University. It took three years to get the first tenured nomination by the President of the Republic. Arvo Lehtovaara was nominated in 1939. In the meantime, Niilo Mäki was the acting professor, and he later became the first professor of special education. Arvo Lehtovaara moved to the University of Helsinki. The second tenured professor, Martti Takala, was nominated in 1954, and he acted in many important roles at the University of Jyväskylä and in the Ministry of Education, until his retirement.  The story is told be the third full professor at the University of Jyväskylä.

Keywords: history of psychology, first chair in psychology, Arvo Lehtovaara, Niilo Mäki, Martti Takala


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Juhani Ihanus

Ester Hjelt, a pioneer in psychotechnics and ”practical psychology”

Among the earliest Finnish women psychologists, Ester Hjelt (1885–1960) was, along with Anitra Karsten (1902–1988), a noted pioneer of applied psychology. In their professional careers, they both had to confront academic, social and cultural obstacles, and find a balance between academic psychology and applied psychology. This article focuses on Ester Hjelt’s career deve-lopment that progressed from working as a school teacher to applying psychology in schools, in the field of psychotechnics, in vocational guidance and in child welfare. Hjelt’s actual academic teaching at Åbo Academy was limited to the years 1948–1953.

Areas of ”practical” or applied psychology had gradually emerged in Finland in the 1910s, first in association with experimental pedagogy, differential psychology and child psychology. Applied psychology gained more independent ground in the 1920s, although it did not yet attain very high regard in the academic world. Psychotechnical research, vocational guidance and intelligence testing in schools were the main fields of early applied psychology.  

Keywords: history of applied psychology, psychotechnics, Ester Hjelt