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Research at the Faculty of Social Sciences

The mission of the Faculty of Social Sciences at Turku University is to generate new information and understanding through research, and to provide high quality teaching. The Faculty constitutes a community of almost two thousand people, whose academic members - teachers and researchers - respond to the challenges of our time by analysing its social phenomena.

Perspectives on society

Each of the faculty’s professionals approaches society from the perspective of their own academic discipline. Often, tensions and conflicts can arise; for social questions are, by their nature, charged with social values. These different perspectives each contribute to social debate, and to strengthening the quality and vitality of societal research.

The defining characteristic of the research carried out within the faculty is a critical approach to the reliability of different kinds of information, and more especially to the validity of the conclusions which may be drawn; in social science research it is crucial to be able to see behind and beyond the apparently obvious facts and explanations. It is particularly important to distinguish between reliably identifiable patterns of change in social phenomena, and accidental variation.

Examples of reasearch in our Faculty

Inequalities, Interventions, and New Welfare State INVEST

The Inequalities, Interventions, and New Welfare State (INVEST) aims at increasing wellbeing of Finnish society during childhood, youth and early adulthood and preventing psychosocial risks compromising such development through innovative interventions.

INVEST aims at providing a new model for the welfare states that is more equal, better targeted to problem groups, more anticipatory as well as economically and socially sustainable.

Based on cutting-edge research on the conditions and mechanisms involved at different periods of development, INVEST will evaluate and develop various universal and targeted interventions to improve the efficiency of the current welfare state institutions at critical points of the early life course.

>> Read more

Intergenerational Cumulative Disadvantage and Resource Compensation (INDIRECT)

The INDIRECT project studies intergenerational inheritance of socioeconomic attainment, with a focus on the idea of resource compensation. Resource compensation can be seen to come into play when families lose resources and attempt to compensate for these losses either through the use of other resources, which have not been lost, or with the resources of other family members or neighbours. By extending the idea of resource compensation to a broad range of situations in which resource compensation may occur, the INDIRECT projects aims to advance the theory behind and empirical evidence for intergenerational socioeconomic inheritance
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no ERC-2013-CoG-617965

>> Read the presentation from ERC:n page
>> Jani Erola

Fostering Finnish Science Capital (FINSCI)

The amount of knowledge is constantly increasing, but at the same time it is becoming more and more difficult to recognise reliable information. In order to cope with the problems and phenomena that affect our daily lives, we need to develop our abilities to understand and evaluate scientific knowledge. The Fostering Finnish Science Capital (FINSCI) project aims to address this need by investigating and developing Finnish science capital, i.e. the possibilities for individuals to interact with science and get to know people in science, as well as their scientific literacy, critical thinking and science communication skills. 

Research in the fields of psychology, neuroscience, education and social sciences are combined to create new knowledge on the affective and neurocognitive mechanisms that underlie successful science learning and decision-making, and to create science-based methods for formal and informal science learning. The main goal of the project is to develop community science practices and public engagement with science in order to increase the accessibility of science. 

The FINSCI consortium is lead by the University of Turku and Psychology Adjunct Professor Johanna Kaakinen, and it includes the University of Eastern Finland, the University of Helsinki, the Finnish Science Center Heureka, and science association Skope ry. The project is funded by the Strategic Research Council (SRC) established within the Academy of Finland. FINSCI is part of the council’s LITERACY program, which seeks solutions to how information can be used critically and constructively to support individual and societal decision-making and activities.

>> Read more about the FINSCI project

>> Read more about Johanna Kaakinen

Nudging for climate: Using behavioral sciences for steering communities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fortify carbon sinks (CLIMATE-NUDGE)

CLIMATE-NUDGE is a consortium funded by the Strateginc Research Council, which applies behavioral sciences, especially nudge theory, to help individuals to make climate friendly decisions. The idea is to alter choice architecture to steer individuals towards better choices for them and for society without limiting freedom.

The nudges co-created and tested together with the stakeholders will focus on 1) decreasing greenhouse gas emissions in transport sector and 2) optimizing use of carbon storages in forest sector. The effects of nudges will be compared with the effects of more traditional societal steering methods, such as taxation.

To ensure creation of fair and acceptable actions, rigorous ethical evaluation is embedded in the process. Impacts for economic and health effects will be assessed. This multidisciplinary project delivers human-centric, scalable, cost-effective, health-promoting and ethically sustainable nudging alternatives that complement traditional steering actions to mitigate climate change.

You can contact the consortium PI Paula Salo for more information about the project.

Participation in Long-Term Decision-Making

Participation in Long-Term Decision-Making (PALO) is a multidisciplinary research project that focuses on the problems related to long-term decision-making practices. The PALO consortium consists of four organisations: the University of Turku, the Natural Resource Institute Finland, Åbo Akademi University and the University of Tampere. The four-year (2017-2021) project is funded by the Strategic Research Council (SRC) at the Academy of Finland.

The PALO project aims to strengthen democracy by developing better practices for deliberative citizen participation and public decision-making. By reforming policy-making processes, we can place more emphasis on long-term consequences and the needs of future generations.

>> Read more about PALO
>> Read more about Maija Setälästä

Therapeutic and Enhancement Uses of Neuroscientific Knowledge: A Question of Individual Autonomy?

Project Coordinator: Prof. Juha Räikkä, Finland
Project Partners: Prof. Jennifer Chandler, Canada (CIHR), Prof. Kai Vogeley, Germany

The results of neuroscientific research have both therapeutic and enhancement uses. The prospect of its becoming possible to cure so far intractable neurological and psychiatric diseases is typically welcomed. In contrast, reactions to the idea that normal human mental capacities could be expanded by neuroscientific means has been significantly more negative. A central concern with the neuroscientific enhancement of human mental capacities relates to a cornerstone of liberal societies, individual autonomy. The aim of the project is to assess how personal autonomy is to be understood in light of the latest neuroscientific and philosophical research and compare how, if at all, therapeutic and enhancement uses of neuroscientific knowledge differ from each other from the viewpoint of autonomy. The project will also determine how personal autonomy relates to other values – such as wellbeing, dignity, and justice – deemed pertinent to determining the moral and legal acceptability of using neuroscientific knowledge to modify human mental capacities.

The planned examination helps to assess the moral and legal permissibility of therapeutic and enhancement uses of neuroscientific knowledge and promotes our understanding of the proper ways of conceiving of ourselves as agents. Besides being of philosophical importance, the expected results of the project can be employed in concrete decision-making relating to the uses of the knowledge produced by neuroscience.

The project has been funded by ERA-NET NEURON

>> Read more

Tackling Inequalities in Time of Austerity

The consortium project Tackling Inequalities in Time of Austerity (TITA) provides a novel and comprehensive analysis of long-term trends in financial inequalities, inequalities in health and well-being and inequalities of opportunities over the life course, and their links to the moral and political climate in society. Thus, it analyses together multiple forms of inequality (such as income, wealth, consumption, education, family dynamics, health, mortality, trust and deprivation) and their interrelationships.

It introduces a holistic framework for mapping the most crucial target groups for policy measures and ensures feasible policy recommendations for reducing inequalities in society for decades to come. It provides tools for policy-learning, both through within-country studies and cross-national comparisons. It exhausts unique longitudinal and time-series data and top-of-the-art statistical methods to fully explore mechanisms of inequality.

>> Read more about TITA
>> Read more about direcotr of consortiuim Mikko Niemelä

The European Social Survey (ESS)

is an academically driven cross-national survey that has been conducted across Europe since its establishment in 2001. Every two years, face-to-face interviews are conducted with newly selected, cross-sectional samples.

The survey measures the attitudes, beliefs and behaviour patterns of diverse populations in more than thirty nations. The main aims of the ESS are:

  • to chart stability and change in social structure, conditions and attitudes in Europe and to interpret how Europe’s social, political and moral fabric is changing;
  • to achieve and spread higher standards of rigour in cross-national research in the social sciences, including for example, questionnaire design and pre-testing, sampling, data collection, reduction of bias and the reliability of questions;
  • to introduce soundly-based indicators of national progress, based on citizens’ perceptions and judgements of key aspects of their societies;
  • to undertake and facilitate the training of European social researchers in comparative quantitative measurement and analysis;
  • to improve the visibility and outreach of data on social change among academics, policy makers and the wider public.

The ESS data is available free of charge for non-commercial use and can be downloaded from this website after a short registration.

The Director of the ESS ERIC is Professor Rory Fitzgerald and the ESS ERIC Headquarters are located at City, University of London. In Finland, the ESS is co-ordinated at the Department of Social Sciences at the University of Turku. From the beginning, the National Coordinator has been Professor of Social Policy Heikki Ervasti. Fieldwork in Finland has been implemented by Statistics Finland.

>> Read more about ESS

Gendered Gun Politics of "Campus Carry"

The Academy of Finland project on the Gendered Gun Politics of "Campus Carry", directed by Dr. Benita Heiskanen of the John Morton Center for North American Studies, examines SB 11, a Texas Senate Bill that allows “License to Carry” (LTC) holders to bring guns onto public university campuses.

This project studies the implications of the Texas state “Campus Carry” gun legislation (SB 11) that came into effect on August 1, 2016. Through qualitative and quantitative research, the project focuses on changing gendered and spatial dynamics at The University of Texas at Austin and St. Edward’s University campuses.

The project’s robust people-centered perspective provides significant empirical, theoretical, and epistemological contributions: 1) original data for understanding the ramifications of policy-making on the lives of people; 2) a link between policy-making, everyday experiences, and visual statements; 3) collaboration between participants and the research team as key to knowledge production processes; and 4) a reflection on research praxis, with a rethinking of the broader epistemological and ethical consequences.

The research contributes to broader scholarly and public debates about the U.S. Second Amendment right to bear arms and its impact beyond academia.

The project has Academy of Finland until fall 2021.

Identifying written words in Finnish and Chinese

The mankind has invented two very different ways to express languages in a written form, alphabetic and logographic script. The alphabetic script contains a limited number of symbols (around 25 letters) that represent sounds in the spoken language. Thus, decoding alphabetic scripts goes via the spoken language.

Finnish is the best example of the alphabetic script, because it has complete correspondence between letters and sounds: every sound in the spoken language is denoted in the written form with its own letter. In the logographic script the written symbols refer directly to meaning without recourse to spoken language. Thus, in contrast to the alphabetic script, a huge number of symbols (about 40 000 characters) are needed to represent meaning in written form. Chinese is the prime example of logographic scripts with a weak link between sound and the written form but a strong connection between semantics and the written form.

Given these qualitatively different principles in representing language in written form, how does reading differ in these two languages, Finnish and Chinese? More precisely, what aspects of the mental processes inherent in word recognition are similar and what aspects are different in reading words in logographic and alphabetic script? Professor Jukka Hyönä's The project seeks answers to these questions.



The role of the language spoken at home in the integration process of immigrants and their children

The project focuses on the role of language spoken at home in the integration processes of immigrants and their children. The objective is to further develop theories of integration with respect to the language used at home and bilingualism. One specific aim of the project is to identify the conditions under which the benefits of continued use of the language of origin at home, which have been found for psychosocial and cognitive outcomes, are extended to other dimensions of integration.

The project is divided into three parts, which examine

  1. the life-course and contextual factors associated with different language choices,
  2. the relationship between language used at home and children’s integration outcomes and its variation according to family characteristics, and
  3. the contextual factors that influence the relationship between language used at home and integration. The project uses cross-national and longitudinal survey data from a number of different European countries.

Director of the project is Elina Kilpi-Jakonen.

Foreign acquisitions and political retaliation as threats to supply security in an era of strategic decoupling (ForAc)

This research project, funded by the Academy of Finland, studies how small open economies can shield enterprises critical for their supply security from strategic foreign acquisitions and political retaliation, while still maintaining their open economies. This question has become pressing, as recent years have seen active efforts by state-linked economic organisations to acquire foreign enterprises that possess critical technological know-how, or perform vital tasks in national supply systems. This project combines three research areas in an innovative, interdisciplinary way: supply security, economic statecraft and strategic enterprise acquisitions. There are critical knowledge gaps in the inter-linkages between these research areas with urgent policy implications, which this project will address.

>> Web-site of ForAc


Bodily maps of musical sensations across cultures (2024)

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Putkinen Vesa, Zhou Xinqi, Gan Xianyang, Yang Linyu, Becker Benjamin, Sams Mikko, Nummenmaa Lauri
(Refereed journal article or data article (A1))