Behaviour Change and Wellbeing people

Meet our people! Here you find principal investigators, researchers, doctoral students and undergraduate research assistants associated with the research area of Behaviour Change & Well-being in the UH Social Psychology Unit. Principal Investigators of this group are Ari Haukkala and Nelli Hankonen. For collaborations and research inquiries, please feel free to contact us!

Nelli Hankonen works in the area of behaviour change research, with specific interest in theory-based process evaluations of interventions. Her expertise lies in participatory development of theory-based interventions to increase wellbeing, as well as their evaluation to develop better theories of behaviour change. Her collaborations include a variety of actors that make use of the science-based practices developed in her team.

Nelli currently serves as Scientific Committee Chair of Duodecim International Symposium 2018, in several editorial boards of scientific journals, and in steering committees.

Projects: Let's Move It, Self-determined motivation for work and health, Psychosocial processes of behaviour change
Twitter: @nhankonen.
Personal webpage:
Other links: Google Scholar, ResearchGate, Publons and PlumX Altmetrics.

Ari Haukkala is University lecturer in social psychology. His research program focuses on three main areas, 1) psychosocial factors in health and well-being, 2) theory-based behavior change interventions, and 3) psychosocial aspects in genomic research.

His current research projects include Public Understanding of Genomics where the aim is examine how health related genetic information is understood among lay people and what people do with genetic information. His is also involved with study by National institute of Health and welfare and Finnish Lynch syndrome study.

Another current project is related to mHealth, where it was examined how theory-based behavior change techniques are possible to embed to mhealth application in EU funded PRECIOUS project.

He teach courses related to social psychology, behaviour change and quantitative research methods.

Projects: Pub­lic un­der­stand­ing of ge­net­ics and ge­netic risk com­mu­nic­a­tion in the era of whole gen­ome sequen­cing, PRECIOUS

Keegan is a health psychologist with interests in the motivational processes that underlie health behavior change, and in understanding how individuals make use of interventions to change their behavior. He currently works in the motivation self-management (Moti) project, which aims to understand how the quality and quantity of motivation fluctuate over time, in order to identify ideal moments to deliver motivational interventions.

In the past, Keegan has worked on several meta-analyses to identify intervention components associated with increases in motivation, physical activity and weight loss maintenance.  He has also developed interventions to promote physical activity among individuals with rheumatoid arthritis and among people with excess risk of cardiovascular disease. These projects involved developing (mhealth) behavior change tools for patients and developing interventions to train healthcare providers to deliver motivational interviews in practical settings.

Projects: Self-determined motivation for work and health

Elina's main research interests lie in the fields of interaction, agency, motivation, well-being and behaviour change.

Her current research focus is primarily on motivational interaction and the changing of motivating style. She works in the LMI key project that disseminates and implements evidence-based intervention strategies into practice. Disseminating social psychology research is close to Elina's heart.

Elina has worked extensively in the field of alcohol research. Her doctoral dissertation discusses attitudes toward alcohol screening and counselling in social work. Her future research topics in this area involve the construction of alcohol-related problems.

Projects: Let's Move It

Before starting his PhD, Matthias Aulbach worked in addiction counseling and therapy, intensifying his interest in impulsive behavior and behavior change.

Thus, his main research interest is in dual-process models and in his PhD he is aiming to change impulsive determinants of eating behavior using computer-based tasks. In his research, he uses meta-analytical and experimental methods, including an excursion to the wonderful world of EEG-measurement.

In addition, Matthias is currently working in Ari Haukkala’s project on public understanding of genetics and genetic risk communication as well as Nelli Hankonen’s Let’s move it project where he is mainly occupied with data analysis and such.

Projects: Pub­lic un­der­stand­ing of ge­net­ics and ge­netic risk com­mu­nic­a­tion in the era of whole gen­ome sequen­cing, Let’s move it

Currently, Marguerite is researching the psychological mechanisms behind uptake and maintenance of well-being enhancing behaviors, e.g., mindfulness practice, among adolescents. She has previously worked with a variety of subjects in social psychology including subjective well-being, culture, income inequality, justification theory, moral and political psychology, motivation for physical activity, the role of literature in evoking sympathy/empathy, self-enactable motivation and behavior change techniques, and experimental frameworks for governments.

Projects: Healthy Learning Mind

Prior to academia, Matti worked in media, sales and marketing research. Now, as a cargo-cult complexity scientist, he is examining how complexity theory can contribute to helping people change their health behaviour. More specifically, he is working on how to evaluate the effects of intervention field trials, along with a more idiographic approach to studying and changing motivation. He balances PhD-ing with meditation and combat sports, and blogs about scientific methodology.

Projects: Self-determined motivation for work and health

Twitter: @Heinonmatti
Personal blog:
Other links: Publons, Google Scholar, LinkedIn

Katri is especially interested in improving research effectiveness by evaluation and dissemination, thus increasing research relevance for policy and practice. Having previously worked in the areas of quality assurance, human resource development, health promotion and knowledge management in practice, she currently contributes to qualitative process evaluation of the Let’s Move It trial. Her doctoral thesis explores physical activity by identifying critical incidents related to behaviour change, expanding the focus from intervention setting to natural contexts as well.

Projects: Let’s Move It

Johanna got intrigued by the opportunities that digital technologies offer for behavioural sciences while developing online courses within the Geneva Foundation for Medical Education and Research (WHO collaborating centre). At the University of Helsinki, she worked for an Let's Move It intervention programme for adolescents’ physical activity and a three-year doctoral project designing, developing and testing a digital health platform as part of a multidisciplinary, EU funded consortium PRECIOUS.

Johanna is currently analysing intervention data of smartphone interventions with n-of-1 multilevel models and qualitative evaluations. She has conducted research with systematic review and meta-analysis, psychophysiological measures, surveys, interviews, and usability studies with think-aloud methods.

Johanna is interested in factors that support behaviour change, including motivational and self-regulatory elements related to self-determination theory and motivational interviewing. She enjoys developing gamified solutions to support engagement in health behaviours through challenges and fun.

Marleena Vornanen works in the area of public’s perspectives on genomics. She studies how lay people make sense of genetic risk information, and how this modifies their health-related choices. She uses both quantitative and qualitative methods to explore how scientific advances in genomics integrate into society, social relations, and individual lives. Her doctoral research is part of the project Public Understanding of Genomics, funded by the Academy of Finland. Marleena is fascinated by the interaction of embodied experiences and cultural meanings that are attached to scientific knowledge.

Projects: Pub­lic un­der­stand­ing of ge­net­ics and ge­netic risk com­mu­nic­a­tion in the era of whole gen­ome sequen­cing

Research assistants in the group:

  • Franziska Ehbrecht
  • Minttu Palsola