Handling Mind (2013–2016)

Handling Mind. Embodiment, Creativity and Design



Prof. Pirita Seitamaa-Hakkarainen, University of Helsinki

pirita.seitamaa-hakkarainen@helsinki.fi | tel. +358 (0)50 3513673

Prof. Maarit Mäkelä, Aalto University

maarit.makela@aalto.fi | tel. +358 (0)50 3722168


Prof. Minna Huotilainen, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health

Prof. Kai Hakkarainen, University of Turku

Prof. Erja Syrjäläinen, University of Helsinki


This multidisciplinary research focuses on both the embodied learning that occurs in relation creativity and design as well as on their neural mechanisms. Project combines approaches from neuroscience, psychology, design and educational science for research on embodied thinking and creativity. Approaches from different domains bridges themes of mind, experience and social interaction, thus creating new knowledge about the relations between socio-emotional, embodied and brain-functional aspects related to working with hands. The goal of the study is to open up an entirely new neuroscientific research tradition focusing on processes of art, crafts and design.

Very little neurologoical research on design thinking has been conducted which means that the research consortium has an excellent chance of becoming world-class in the field of neuroscience and design research. Handling mind research project creates and tests hypotheses related to the tasks and functions of different parts of the brain, in addition to studying processes and skill acquisition related to design activity.

Through four interlinked study tracks we examined how participation in creative design processes affects participants’ socio-emotional experiences as well as their neural responses is mapped out. In addition, the nature of the embodied knowledge related to them is examined, with special emphasis on the interaction between mind, body and material. The study track Personal Exploration (A) examines the personal improvisational creativity required in creating innovations and new solutions; Co-Design (B) focuses on co-designing and artifacts-mediated sharing of expertise in crafts and design; Drawing and Forming (C) address neural correlates regarding relations between reproduction and innovation and Skill Learning (D) focuses on neural indications of the development of craft-design skills.

The results of the present project are particularly important because the methods and as well as theoretical frameworks and empirical findings can possibly be generalized to many design fields. Results are also expected to be of practical help in the development of teaching methods for different age groupsand to be also applicable in service design in health and social sectors as well as therapeutic areas. The research results endeavor towards the progression of increasingly diverse design practices and the facilitation of achievement that cross contemporary boundaries between art, design training and working life environments.