Erland Hjelmquist

Professor Emeritus

Department of
Visiting address
Haraldsgatan 1
41314 Göteborg
Postal address
Box 500
40530 Göteborg

About Erland Hjelmquist


After undergraduate studies in psychology, sociology, philosophy , education and ethnology, I received a psychologist´s degree and a teacher´s college degree in 1972 and defended my doctoral thesis in psychology 1975. I became an associate professor in 1980 and a professor in 1994 at the Department of Psychology, University of Gothenburg. Beside research and teaching I have held a number of administrative positions, among others as head of the psychology department at the University of Gothenburg for about 10 years. During the years 2008-2013 I was an leave for the position as secretary general and head of the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research; from 2013 the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare.


My teaching is mainly supervision of doctoral students.

Research interests

My research has focused on language, communication, cognition and thinking; children as well as adults. Initially, the studies targeted aspects of face-to-face interaction. They included structural aspects of dialogue and memory for conversations. Rather soon, disabilities and communication became another focal point of research. We conducted some very early studies of comprehension of speech synthesis for blind people. Studies of infants and children have been an essential part of my research for a very long time. Among other things, we have studied basic functions of children´s conception of language in a developmental perspective, not least how children understand and reason about form and content aspects of linguistic communication. Much of my research has been devoted to infants and children with functional disabilities such as cerebral palsy, ADHD, Asperger syndrome, autism, deafness/severe hearing loss, and dyslexia. A variety of issues related to language, communication, memory and cognition has been investigated.

Current research

We are analysing a large empirical set of data from a cross-cultural study of reading, writing and dyslexia. We have collected data on linguistic and cognitive functions among children aged 8-9 years with reading and writing problems in Sweden, Estonia, Canada and Croatia. The research questions concern similarities and differences of the pattern of relationships among the linguistic and cognitive variables within each language, across the four languages. The four different languages vary considerably in terms of the depth of the orthography. Estonian orthography and pronunciation is very close, whereas English orthography and pronunciation are very distant from each other with the two other languages somewhere in between. In another dyslexia project, we use a specific intervention method for children who lag behind in reading and writing skills; in this project we compare Sweden and Croatia, using the same testing and intervention methods in both countries. The studies of deaf children concern the development of social cognition, or theory of mind, related to language experience and schooling. In particular, we are interested in early access to, or lack of, sign language among deaf children for the emergence of social cognition. We have studied deaf children and adolescents, and recently young deaf children and normal hearing children using eye-tracking technique and nonverbal testing methods. Looking patterns are used as a measure of attention to various aspects of a sequence of animated actions on a screen, indicating the presence or absence of social cognition.

Selected publications

Morgan, G., Meristo, M., Mann, W., Hjelmquist, E., Surian, L., Siegal, M. Mental state language and quality of conversational experience in deaf and hearing children. (2014). Cognitive Development, 29, 41-49.

Meristo, M., Falkman, K.W., Hjelmquist, E., Tedoldi, M., Surian, L., & Siegal, M. (2014). Language access and theory of mind reasoning: Evidence from deaf children in bilingual and oralist environments . In A. Antonietti, E. Confalonieri, & A. Marchetti (Eds.), Reflective Thinking in Educational Settings: A cultural framework (pp. 170-199). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Meristo, M., Hjelmquist, E., & Morgan, G. (2012). How access to language affects theory of mind in deaf children. In M. Siegal & L. Surian (Eds.), Access to Language and Cognitive Development (pp. 44-61). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Meristo, M., Morgan, G., Geraci, A., Iozzi, L., Hjelmquist, E., Surian, L., & Siegal, M. (2012). Belief attribution in deaf and hearing infants. Developmental Science, 15, 633-640.

Svensson, I., Nilsson, S., Wahlström, J., Jernås, M., Carlsson, L.M., & Hjelmquist, E. (2011). Familial dyslexia in a large Swedish family: A whole genome linkage scan. Behavior Genetics, 41, 43-49.

Siegal, M., Frank, C.K., Surian, L., & Hjelmquist, E. (2011). Theory of mind and bilingual cognition. In Cook, V., & Bassetti, B. (Eds.), Language and Bilingual Cognition (431-452). London. Routledge/Psychology Press.

Meristo, M. & Hjelmquist, E. (2009). Executive functions and theory-of-mind among deaf children – different routes to understanding other minds? Journal of Cognition and Development,10, 67-91.

Hjelmquist, E. (2008). Funktionshinder/handikapp, kultur och hälsa (Disabilities/handicaps, culture and health). I G. Bjursell & L. Vahlne Westerhäll (Red.), Kulturen och hälsan (Culture and health) (sid. 139-160). Stockholm: Santérus Förlag.

Hjelmquist, E. (2007) Review of: “Handbook of adolescent psychology (2nd edition)”, by R.M. Lerner & L. Steinberg (Eds.), European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,16, 416.

Meristo, M., Falkman, K.W., Hjelmquist, E., Tedoldi, M., Surian, L., & Siegal, M. (2007). Language access and theory of mind reasoning: Evidence from deaf children in bilingual and oralist environments. Developmental Psychology.43, 1156-1169.

Falkman, K., Roos, C., & Hjelmquist, E. (2007). Menatlizing skills of non-native, early signers: A longitudinal perspective. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 4, 178- 198.