Daisy Schalling was a professor of psychology at Stockholm university who was a significant driving force in developing the field of neuropsychology in Sweden. She also founded Sveriges Neuropsykologers Förening (Swedish neuropsychologists’ society).
Daisy Schalling was born in 1923. She married Kurt Schalling, a lawyer. They had a son together called Martin Schalling, who later became a doctor and professor of medical genetics at Karolinska Institutet (KI) (Karolinska institute). It was after reading Gösta Rylander’s thesis entitled Personality changes after operations in the frontal lobe that Daisy Schalling developed an interest in psychology. However, when she began her studies in psychology there was no standardised course for qualifying as a psychologist in Sweden. So she began by studying pedagogy, instead, and subsequently reading psychology at Stockholm högskola (college).
Those who knew Daisy Schalling have described her as a positive and enthusiastic person who was very supportive of her colleagues and students. She avoided bringing attention to herself, seeking rather to place her own and her colleagues’ efforts in the spotlight. Following her basic qualification in psychology she then undertook practical work at the KI psychiatry clinic. Although this was an unsalaried position it provided her with valuable clinical experience.
Daisy Schalling became a research student during the 1950s and gained her licentiate in 1957. She defended her thesis entitled Contributions to the validation of some personality concepts in 1970, presented at the department of psychology at Stockholm university. She was involved in seeing to it that biological psychology and neuropsychology became established important research fields and she supervised a series of doctoral students who went on to have successful careers and became prominent figures within both research and clinical neuropsychology. These people include the likes of Petter Gustavsson, Aniko Bartfai, Håkan Nyman, and Britt af Klintberg. Daisy Schalling also either taught or mentored Marie Åsberg and Sten Levander, both later professors in their own rights.
Daisy Schalling had an extensive range of international contacts. One of these was Hans Eysenck, for example, whose research into the characteristics of extroversion-introversion and neuroticism has had significant influence on the psychology of personality and with whom she collaborated. Daisy Schalling showed that concepts such as extroversion and neuroticism required nuancing. She was also able to show that anxiety is far too wide a concept and the fact that anxiety can adopt a variety of mental as well as somatic forms should be taken into account. She and her colleagues developed the Karolinska Scales of Personality (KSP), which was a self-evaluation form for identifying biologically-based character types and their relationship to various psychiatric conditions. KSP is still in use today (2017) both domestically and internationally. The form consists of 135 statements which require people to decide how relevant they are to themselves. KSP covers four areas: introversion-extroversion, socialisation, various types of anxiety, and various types of aggression. The form is used in research into such issues as addictions, psychopathic disorders, and personality studies. Petter Gustavsson and his colleagues subsequently developed and reworked KSP, which was then renamed the Swedish universities Scales of Personality (SSP).
Daisy Schalling became a prominent figure within the field of psychopathic disorders. She worked with Robert Hare and Hervey Cleckley who were both considered to be authorities in the sphere. Her collaborative work with others, including Marie Åsberg and Sten Levander, was also viewed as pioneering within Swedish research on the connection between neurotransmitters and their metabolites and various psychiatric conditions and personality traits. She emphasised, however, that it was vulnerability rather than degree of illness which required study.
Daisy Schalling’s research into neuropsychological functions also dealt with areas such as right-handedness and left-handedness, the ability to solve problems, and cognitive speed. She was also a pioneer of research into frontal lobe functions. She was responsible for founding Sveriges Neuropsykologers Förening in 1989. Before that she had set up seminars and symposia for psychologists who wanted to deepen their knowledge of neuropsychology. The importance of Daisy Schalling’s role in the growth of neuropsychology as a field is reflected in the Sveriges Neuropsykologers Förening use of her name as a password for internet access to members’ pages for a while.
Daisy Schalling was also one of the first clinical psychologists within the sphere of psychiatry. She can be considered a “hidden element” within Swedish psychology as she was better known outside of her home country. This is confirmed by the fact that, following her death, established and weighty international scientific journals published articles in tribute to her.
Daisy Schalling died in 1997. She is buried at Bromma cemetery.