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Research Programs

Cognitive Psychology of Workgroups

I continue to conduct research exploring how information is processed in interacting groups.  I have focused on a number of issues in this research program such as information processing biases, memory errors and performance, mental models and cognitive representations, metacognitive strategies, and information processing effectiveness and efficiency.  This research program is often directed at trying to understand how cognitive processes influence judgments, decisions, and other forms of cognitive task performance (e.g., inference, problem solving).  

Group Judgment and Decision Making

I have pursued research on group judgment and decision making since graduate school.  These judgments and decisions are involved in a variety of applied domains (e.g., top management teams, juries, military crews).  My focus is often on the processes by which decisions are reached given the differing preferences of the group members.  Generally, I apply a combinations-of-contributions theoretical framework to this research and I try to develop robust formal and mathematical models for predicting the judgment and decision making process (as exemplified by the social decision schemes for quantities approach; Hinsz, 1999).  Currently, we are investigating how groups and individuals make allocation decisions for themselves and others which reflect underlying motives for competitive, cooperative, or individualistic orientations for the interaction.

Goal Setting by Groups and Individuals

The research program on goal setting had its inception with my dissertation.  Goal setting provides the basis for a unique paradigm which allows us to examine social and informational factors that influence goal decision making that has direct implications for subsequent task performance.  In this way, I am able to examine in one paradigm both the decision making and task performance aspects of group interaction that I find intriguing.  In this research program, we have examined informational factors such as judgmental anchors and social factors such as social comparison.  Most recently, we have been exploring competition and mood influences on goal ⇒ performance processes. 

Workgroup Performance

Much of my research reflects a general interest in workgroup performance.  This has led to efforts that examine ways to enhance workgroup performance in various domains.  This includes attempts to train members to be better coordinated in their interactions.  Currently, we are testing a motivational systems theory to determine if the motivational tendencies of members follow the predicted pattern to enhance performance in challenging but rewarding situations, and to diminish apprehension in threatening situations.  In addition, we have investigated factors that contribute to task performance of team members having unique roles in a simulated Uninhabited Aerial Systems (UAS) task environment.

Motivated Safety and Security Behaviors / Food Safety

The safety of the food people eat is a critical public health concern.  The human element in the processing, preparation, and provisioning of this food in a safe manner is the focus of this research program.  We use food safety as a means to investigate how people are motivated to perform safety and security behaviors.  We have examined how social norms, work habits, organizational culture of safety, emotional dispositions, cognitive dispositions, job attitudes, and models of intentional behavior (among many) can be used to enhance our understanding of how people can be motivated to enact behaviors that promote safety and security.  Currently, we are considering how workers’ cognitive, emotional, and motivational dispositions may foster food safety intentions and behaviors.

Aggression Involving Groups

One program of research inspired by graduate student interest has looked at aggression and hostility by interacting groups and targeting groups. Our research shows that groups are more aggressive to others (individuals and groups) than individuals.  Moreover, aggression directed at intact groups is more intense than that targeting individuals.  We have examined how group marginalization (exclusion and rejection) may play a role in why groups are more aggressive.  Additionally, we are exploring if attributions of ambiguous incidents are perceived as more hostile by groups than if the attribution is made by an individual.

Interesting and Perplexing Social Behavior

Over the years, often provoked by working with students, we have explored a variety of interesting social behaviors that perplex us.  This has included facial resemblance among married and engaged couples, social reciprocation of smiles by passersby but not frowns, disgust as a motivating emotion, success and failure as mood induction, and self-esteem in interviews.  One example of this research was posed as:  What is it with women’s hair?  Recently, we examined the impact of women’s hair color and length has on judgments of these women.

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