Hjalmar Sundén’s Impact on the Study of Religion in the Nordic Countries


  • Tomas Lindgren Umeå University




Psychology of Religion, Hjalmar Sundén, Role Theory


In this article, I discuss Hjalmar Sundén’s theoretical and methodological contributions to the psychological study of religion in the Nordic countries, including a discussion of role theory and Sundén’s way of conducting (and presenting) his research. Nordic scholars’ use of role theory is analyzed and discussed. My analysis of the state of research reveals that the use of role theory reached its peak during the 1970s. Scholarly interest in the theory declined during the 1980s, and has been virtually abandoned since the mid-1990s. In these earlier studies, the theory was primarily used to elucidate the psychological dynamic of various religious phenomena, rather than to test the theory systematically against data. However, these scholars gave the theory an empirical underpinning, and identified details in the theory that needed to be refined and revised. I propose several possible reasons for the decline in scholarly interest in role theory. Finally, I suggest that Sundén’s methodological contributions may have had a bigger impact on the study of religion than his theoretical contributions. 

Author Biography

Tomas Lindgren, Umeå University

TOMAS LINDGREN is Associate Professor of Psychology of Religion, Umeå University, Sweden. E-mail: tomas.lindgren@religion.umu.se




How to Cite

Lindgren, T. (2014). Hjalmar Sundén’s Impact on the Study of Religion in the Nordic Countries. Temenos - Nordic Journal of Comparative Religion, 50(1), 39–62. https://doi.org/10.33356/temenos.46249