Tribute to Folke Ölander: 21 July 1935 – 28 December 2013

It is with sorrow that we received the news that Emeritus Professor of economic psychology Folke Ölander passed away 28 December after a short period of severe illness. We have lost a wonderful colleague, an inspiring researcher, a supportive research mentor, an enthusiastic teacher, a great sportsman and a dear friend.

2013.12.30 | Julia Rolsted Stacey

Folke Ölander was born in Sweden on the 21 July 1935. He studied psychology at Stockholm University, where he received his doctoral degree in 1963.

In his dissertation work, Folke focused on the theory and measurement of preferences. His supervisor was the founder of economic psychology in Scandinavia, Professor Karl-Erik Wärneryd, Stockholm School of Economics.

After his doctorate, Folke continued his work in Wärneryd's group at Stockholm School of Economics where he was affiliated until 1972. He then worked a couple of years at the International Institute of Management at the Wissenschaftszentrum in Berlin. During this period, Folke's research focused on core subjects in economic psychology, such as consumer saving, as well as on subjects of interest for the field of marketing - consumer reactions to prices, new products and advertising. He also studied more basic issues of human behaviour - reasons why attitudes and behaviour are not always consistent, how to inform the public in an ethically sound and effective way and various methodological issues. Last but not least he engaged in consumer action research.

Since the mid 1970s, approximately from the time when he moved to Aarhus School of Business and into a Chair in economic psychology, Folke's main research interest has been consumer policy, branching out in several directions. He produced important contributions to the understanding of consumer satisfaction, dissatisfaction and complaint behaviour in the late 70s and early 80s.

Later in the 1980s, the consumer and consumer policy-relevant aspects of the newly emerging electronic media and electronic means of payment became another important research area for Folke. His active interest in these subjects continued well into the 1990s.

However, since the early 1990s, Folke’s main research interest has been problems related to the interplay between consumer behaviour and the natural environment, still with a consumer policy angle. Based on the view that consumers have an interest in a non-polluted environment as well as rights and responsibilities in this connection, his research in this period focused on ways to empower consumers and facilitate their active contribution to conservation and environmental protection.

Folke also served four years as a member of the board of the Centre for Social Science Research on the Environment in the second half of the 1990s and that from 1996 to 2005 he was a member of two programme committees for Research on Sustainable Development set down by the Norwegian Research Council.

At a more general level, Folke was an active contributor to the development of economic psychology as a research field in Europe. He was one of the founding members of the International Association for Research in Economic Psychology (IAREP) in 1982 and its president in 1989-1991.

Folke played an equally influential role in European and international consumer policy research. He was one of the three founding editors of the Journal of Consumer Policy in 1977, a position he held until 2005. Folke was also a driving force in Nordic consumer policy and in Nordic consumer research from the 1970s onwards. He was a member of the Nordic Consumer Committee under the Nordic Council of Ministers from 1994 to 2005, where he took part in the development and organising of a Nordic consumer research programme. As the chairperson of an Expert Committee for Consumer Affairs, set down by the Danish Minister of Trade and Industry 1999-2002, he has put additional marks on Danish consumer policy research.

For all these achievements, Folke was honoured at many occasions over the years, including an honorary doctorate at the Stockholm School of Economics in 1999 and a Festschrift published by Springer in 2005 with contributions from a large number of great international scholars and friends.

However, it was a characteristic trait of Folke that he was never very eager to get credit for his achievements. What mattered to him was furthering knowledge and research. Especially after he got his chair in economic psychology at Aarhus School of Business (ASB; since 2007 part of Aarhus University), in 1975, he was determined in his effort to support the building of viable and thriving research communities and to facilitate and tutor the research of others, especially younger colleagues.

Folke has served as member and often chairperson of several research-granting bodies, in Denmark, Norway and at the Nordic level, including a period as chair-person of the Danish Social Science Research Council. He served as Associate Dean for Research and Chairman of the Faculty Research Committee at the Faculty of Business Administration at ASB for 14 years.

Also, many younger researchers at ASB and elsewhere are immensely indebted to Folke for his competent and empathetic mentoring and tutoring. His kindness and care was greatly appreciated by everyone in the department, by both academic and administrative colleagues.

Folke was an active member of the Department of Business Administration and the Research Groups for Marketing & Sustainability to the very end and participated actively in research seminars and publication activities.

Folke has passed away, but the memory of a dear friend, collaborator, mentor, colleague and a great researcher lives on. Honoured be his memory.

Folke Ölander

On behalf of the Department of Business Administration
Professor John Thøgersen