What brings individuals and groups together, and what sets them apart? This question has captured the interest of Professor of Social Psychology Eerika Finell throughout her academic career.
In recent years, Finell’s focus has been on the psychosocial well-being of children attending schools that have problems with indoor air quality. She leads the FinnChildAir project funded by the Academy of Finland, which takes a different approach to indoor air problems in schools; usually, the phenomenon is addressed from a more technical perspective.
“Sociopsychological research into the consequences of indoor air problems remains scarce. We are interested in what kind of psychosocial processes are created in built environments that are experienced as harmful. In this approach, the experience of the individual and the group is more relevant than the actual, measured and verified harmfulness of the indoor environment.”
Finell began to study the psychosocial effects of indoor air problems when she was a postdoctoral researcher. Initially, her main focus was on indoor air problems experienced by adults in the workplace. Strong experiences of injustice associated with indoor air problems emerged as a key finding. Now, the FinnChildAir project focuses on children and school environments.
“For nearly two years now, I’ve been closely following a school that has major indoor air problems. People’s experiences of indoor air problems can be very different even in environments where the indoor air problem has been verified by the authorities. For children who don’t get symptoms of poor indoor air quality in their school building, the experience may nonetheless be that adults do not care about their school environment. Children don’t know what is happening in the background and what is being done to fix the situation. Then again, there are children who get severe symptoms, and attempts to alleviate their situation may be very active and visible. Sometimes, a child with symptoms may feel left very alone. For a child, the attitude adults take towards the condition of the school environment, and the way they deal with possible problems, is also an indication of how much adults care about the child and their well-being,” says Finell.
“Personal experience means a lot. It is important for children, too, that they can influence their own situation and that the community recognises the problem.”
Observing immigrant and Finnish mothers in a playground
Eerika Finell started as a permanent Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Eastern Finland on 1 January 2022. The post is hosted by the Department of Social Sciences on the Kuopio Campus.
In addition to the FinnChildAir project, Finell’s recent projects include the MAMANET project conducted in collaboration with Nottingham Trent University. The project focuses on mothers of small children living in the same residential area, and on factors that promote or prevent relationships and contacts between them.
Researchers working in MAMANET have, among other things, observed the development of relationships and contacts between immigrant and Finnish mothers in playgrounds. They remain few, the findings show.
“Some mothers find it difficult to establish contacts, and this is not always due to a language barrier. It may be challenging also for mothers of small children who speak the same language. Yet, mothers who had contacts with others usually described them as positive,” Finell says.
A long continuum of research addressing national symbols
Finell’s interest in social psychology research stems from her Master’s and doctoral theses, which dealt with memories and emotions associated with the national symbols of Finland.
“Since 2002, I have been conducting research in the same schools, exploring what kind of memories and emotions young people attach to national symbols. The study has included familiar symbols, such as the Finnish flag, but also imagery ranging from Finnish sports to Finnish artists. There’s been a change in how people recognise symbols since I started collecting my data. For example, an image of Sibelius, Finland’s most famous composer, was no longer recognised very well in the data collected in 2014,” Finell says.
Finell’s interest in research into national symbols continues along with her other research.
- Professor of Social Psychology, University of Eastern Finland, 1 Jan 2022–
- Title of Docent in social psychology, University of Eastern Finland, 2018
- Doctor of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki, 2012
- Master of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki, 2005
- Master of Fine Arts, University of Arts, 1998.
- Academy Research Fellow, University of Tampere, 2019–2021
- Senior Lecturer, University of Tampere, 2015– 2019
- Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Helsinki, 2013–2015
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