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Department of Psychology until 2009


1930's and 1940's

In 1930 Eino Kaila was appointed professor of Theoretical Philosophy at the University of Helsinki. Eino Kaila is regarded as the founder of the Department of Psychology at Helsinki University.

Eino Kaila Eino Kaila

In 1931 he was appointed director of the Psychological Laboratory which started functioning in the basement of the Department of Physiology. Eino Kaila was the director of the laboratory until 1948.

In 1937 the Laboratory recieved permanent facilities in the main building of the University of Helsinki (Fabianinkatu 33).

Psychology was part of philosophy until year 1946 when it became it's own subject.

1950's and 1960's

In 1951 Kai von Fieandt was appointed the first Professor of Psychology. In the following year Arvo Lehtovaara was appointed Extraordinary Professor.

Kai von Fieandt Kai von Fieandt

The second official Professorship was founded 15 years later in 1966, and Arvo Lehtovaara was appointed.

Arvo Lehtovaara Arvo Lehtovaara

Since there existed two separate professorships at the Department of Psychology their teaching subjects had to be defined. Kai von Fiendt's teaching subject was defined as General Psychology (experimental psychology, i.e., perception, learning, motivation and general personality psychology) and Arvo Lehtovaara's teaching subject was defined as Applied Psychology (child- and developmental psychology, clinical psychology, industrial psychology and aptitude psychology). The different teaching subjects lead to the foundation of two separate divisions, the Division of General Psychology and the Division of Applied Psychology.

In 1969 the Division of General Psychology moved to the address Ritarikatu 5 while the Division of Applied Psychology and the Library of Psychology remained in the main building of the University of Helsinki.


Arvo Lehtovaara was Professor of Applied Psychology until year 1970 when R. Olavi Viitamäki succeeded him.

Veijo Virsu

Veijo Virsu and Pekka Lehtiö (next photo) built a vision laboratory to the Division of General Psychology. Some results of the laboratory were published even in two reports of Nature.


Pekka Lehtiö

The first-in-the-world, fully digital and real-time contrast-threshold search capable grating generator was constructed by Pekka Lehtiö at the vision laboratory already in 1973.

In 1973, Kai von Fieandt retired and Risto Näätänen was appointed Professor of Psychology in 1975. Veijo Virsu acted as his substitute in 1979-80.

Michie ja Risto Näätänen

Patricia Michie as a visitor of Risto Näätänen's laboratory. In 1978, Näätänen discovered the Mismatch Negativity (MMN) response that formed the basis for his later studies.


Risto Näätänen, Sir John Eccles ja Mikko Sams Risto Näätänen with Nobel prize winner Sir John Eccles and Mikko Sams.

The two divisions had separate entrance examinations and students until 1979 when the degree requirements were united. Even though the Department became more uniform the two divisions were still physically separated.

In addition to scientific work and teaching, the deparment was very active societally. For example, Risto Näätänen wrote the influential book Liikennekuolema ("Traffic death") that was seminal for later founding of a grant professorship in the psychology of traffic. Veijo Virsu published five large articles in the leading newspaper Helsingin Sanomat concerning the situation of psychological science in Finland, children's daycare, and the effects of automatization on work. Pekka Lehtiö gave television tutorials on the use of computers and Valde Mikkonen worked in the Academy of Finland.


Two new professorships were founded, a Personal Extraordinary Professorship for Veijo Virsu in 1980 and a Traffic Psychology Professorship in 1984. Valde Mikkonen was appointed to the professorship in year 1985, and Heikki Summala in year 1991.

Valde Mikkonen

Valde Mikkonen

Veijo Virsu ja David Hubel

Veijo Virsu presents the vision research of the department to Nobel Prize Winner David Hubel.

Risto Näätänen was officially Professor of (General) Psychology until 1999, but he was on a leave of absence from 1983 when he started working as Research Professor of the Academy of Finland. In 1983-1999 Valde Mikkonen, Timo Järvilehto, Göte Nyman, Kimmo Alho and Hannu Tiitinen substituted him in his university professor position.

Göte Nyman

Göte Nyman wrote a program for his vision research apparatus that was used in a study reported in Nature.

In 1987 the Division of Applied Psychology moved to the address Fabianinkatu 28.

Johan von Wright Johan von Wright

In 1987 the Division of Applied Psychology moved to the address Fabianinkatu 28.


In 1992 Liisa Keltikangas-Järvinen was appointed Professor of Applied Psychology.

R. Olavi Viitamäki ja Liisa Keltikangas-Järvinen R.Olavi Viitamäki and Liisa Keltikangas-Järvinen

In 1990's, Göte Nyman was the Chairman of the Department of Psychology for a long period of time and in 1995-1998 also the Dean of th Faculty of Arts. He was appointed to the position of associate professor in 1988. This position was changed into a full professorship in 1998. Previous holders of the position were R. Olavi Viitamäki (1962-71) and Valde Mikkonen (1974-85).

In 1993, Risto Vuorinen, was appointed to the associate professorship in applied psychology. Also this position was changed into a full professorship in 1998. Previous holders of this position were Lauri Rauhala (1976-80) and Liisa Keltikangas-Järvinen (1981-92).

In 1996 the Division of General Psychology moved to the address Meritullinkatu 1.

Meritullinkatu 1 Meritullinkatu 1

In the same year the professorship in Cognitive Science was founded. Pertti Saariluoma (1996-2002) and Christina Krause have performed official duties pro tempore.

Risto Näätänen was the first researcher to receive the national great science award in 1997.

In the summer of 1998 the Department's Library moved to the address Meritullinkatu 1.


In year 2000 the Division of Applied Psychology also moved to the address Meritullinkatu 1 and the whole Department of Psychology was located in the same building.

In 2000, Kimmo Alho was appointed Professor of (General) Psychology.

Kimmo Alho ja Risto Näätänen Kimmo Alho and Risto Näätänen

In October 2002 the Department moved to the address Siltavuorenpenger 20.

In Fall, 2003, the division of department to Applied Psychology and General Psychology originating from 1960’s was ended. Instead the teaching activities were divided into 9 sectors (in alphabetical order): Clinical Psychology; Developmental Psychology; Neuropsychology; Perceptual & Cognitive Psychology; Personality Psychology; Psychology of Work, Technology & Organizations; Psychometrics; Traffic Psychology; and Cognitive Science.

In the beginning of 2004, the department moved from the Faculty of Arts to the new Faculty of Behavioural Sciences.


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