Currently, I’m doing research on the interconnectedness of humans and their nonhuman environment from the perspective of narratives. In this interdisciplinary project called NARMESH, based at the Department of Literary Studies at Ghent University, Belgium, my part as a psychologist is to investigate whether and how reading fiction influences the way we conceptualize the human-nonhuman relationships. I am particularly interested in what kind of (non)agency we humans are able and willing to ascribe to nonhuman animals and the environment, and what is the potential role of reading experiences in these attributions. In particular, I am investigating the power of fiction in effecting our sense of agency in relation to climate change.
I am also interested in human and nonhuman (non)agency in the context of smart devices. The (non)agency that the users ascribe to themselves and to their gadgets is an essential element of the relationship we have with this kind of everyday technology. In other words, I try to understand our relationships and interactions with personal smart devices from the perspective of who can do what and who not -who has the ultimate power to act? See more here: https://www.heiditoivonen.com/research/2020/03/human-smart-device-interaction/
Previously, during my PhD studies, I was involved in studying the discursive construction of agency and nonagency in psychotherapeutic conversations at the University of Jyväskylä. More information about the research group here (only in Finnish): https://www.jyu.fi/edupsy/fi/laitokset/psykologia/tutkimus/tutkimusalueet/kliininen-psykologia-ja-psykoterapia/toimijuuden-ja-sen-puutteiden-diskursiivinen-tuottaminen-psykoterapeuttisissa-keskusteluissa