In memory of Arne Öhman

Arne Öhman

Our friend, mentor of many, and former head senior professor of psychology Arne Öhman (born 1943) died on March 19, 2020. Arne was an internationally leading researcher in experimental emotion psychology and psychopathology. He defended his dissertation in 1971 at Uppsala University, and at the age of 33, he was appointed professor at the University of Bergen, Norway. In 1982, Arne took up a professorship in clinical psychology at Uppsala University. He was a member of the Finnish, as well as the Swedish, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and received several fine awards for his scientific contributions.

In 1993, he replaced Marianne Frankenhaeuser as professor of psychology at Karolinska Institutet. Arne came to personify the development from shorter training sessions in the medical, nursing and physiotherapy educations, to an academically prestigious 5-year psychologist program at Karolinska Institutet. Arne was a truly inspiring visionary, who wanted to build sustainable bridges between experimental and clinical research. Little did KI's management and researchers expect the high level of ambition and top-ranked research that would develop under Arne's leadership. Arne's view of psychology as an empirically oriented science with a close connection to biology contributed to KI's stance towards evidence-based professional activities that would be the hallmark of the new psychologist program. Arne’s tenure as the head of the department of clinical neuroscience meant a lot to psychology's status at KI.

Simultaneously with Arne's important influence on psychology in Sweden and at the KI, his contribution to scientific psychology internationally was immense. Several of Arne's early studies of the orientation reflex and our tendency to learn fears of specific stimuli now belong to the classics of psychology. These studies, as well as other innovative contributions to the psychology of emotion and attention, illustrate Arne's unique ability to connect theoretically important issues - often with inspiration from evolutionary biology - with rigorous experimental methods. Arne was very popular in his broad international research network, which he cultivated during his many stays at leading universities and institutes in the USA and Europe. He served as chairman of the International Society for Psychophysiological Research, where he helped strengthen psychophysiological research in Europe. Among his many honors, he received the Wilhelm Wundt-William James from the European Federation of Psychology Associations, and was elected a membership of Karolinska Institutet's Nobel Assembly 1994 - 2010.

Arne was a unique scientist, who combined intellectual and methodological brilliance with a great commitment to making science publically accessible. His work has already made history and, along with other great psychologists, will continue to inspire generations of researchers around the world.


For the Department of Psychology


Bo Melin, professor

Andreas Olsson, professor