Calling all psychology majors...
April 24, 2007 4:07 PM   Subscribe

Psychologists - Help me find some references to get me started on reading about awareness in small groups.

I'm a researcher in human-computer interaction and I study computer-supported co-operative work (CSCW). My work focuses mainly on small groups in shared workspaces.

While I am fairly well-versed in the CSCW literature regarding this area, I am interested in learning more about foundational research in the psychology and cognitive science fields that deals with awareness in small groups.

I'd like to find 5-10 good books and/or research papers to start with, and then branch out from there. I am finding lots of "small group research" journals and books that seem promising but am a bit overwhelmed by the huge corpus of information!

A couple examples of what I mean by awareness:
  • collecting general knowledge aobut peoples' progress on a collaborative task
  • knowing when is a good time to interrupt (or not interrupt) another group member
  • strategies people use to communicate or ascertain what is currently happening (e.g. eye-contact, spoken language, physical gestures) and the relative importance/effectiveness of these various strategies
Can you suggest a resource or two to get me started? I'm interested in foundational studies and taxonomies, rather than more recent and specific work.
posted by sanitycheck to Science & Nature (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not a psychologist, but I'm responding because your 2nd & 3rd bullets really sound like you're interested in communication (my field). As you've already noted, there is a ton of research on small groups. I'm aware of research by some social psychologists on group identity (a lot of which deals with technology, so you may already be familiar with it), but I don't know that psychology as a rule is as focused as groups at the level you seem to be looking for. There is a lot of foundational research on theories of group formation and interaction, life-cycles of groups, etc. What sort of taxonomies are you looking for? I guess I'm still unclear as to what you mean by "awareness."
posted by DiscourseMarker at 8:50 PM on April 24, 2007

I'm not a psychologist either, but I am a sociologist studying autism. 2 broad areas, as I see it, are understanding these as social behaviours versus dynamic social processes.

Here are some resources from the dynamic social process camp. You can mine others from

Developing Through Relationships: Origins of Communication, Self and Culture by Alan Fogel Copyright © 1993 "Dr. Fogel is the developmental psychologist who has had the most influence in bringing the study of co-regulation in dynamic systems to the forefront of developmental psychology. Alan Fogel demonstrates that human development is driven by a social dynamic process called co-regulation--the creative interaction of individuals to achieve a common goal.
Publisher: University of Chicago Press; ISBN: 226256596

Apprenticeship in Thinking: Cognitive Development in Social Context by Barbara Rogoff.

Cradle of Thought by Peter Hobson. This is Dr. Peter Hobson's brilliant new book which explains the basis of his theory that Autism can be thought of as a failure to develop active mental engagement.

The First Relationship: Infant and Mother by Daniel Stern.

The Infant’s World by Philippe Rouchat. Dr. Rochat has been recognized on the leading edge of the new generation of developmental psychologists. Dr. Rochat’s volume, while quite readable, also is a detailed account of the most recent findings about infant’s development of mental processes that only a few years ago were thought to occur at a much later developmental stage. Rochat nicely summarizes the research literature in an understandable manner.

The Devleoping Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who we Are by Daniel Siegel.

Emotional Development: The Organization of Emotional Life in Early Years by Alan Sroufe. In this technical but brilliant work, Dr. Sroufe details the developmental sequences that lead to children’s learning to successfully function in dynamic systems and to crave incongruity and cognitive challenge.

How Children Learn the Meanings of Words by Paul Bloom. No account of modern understanding of children’s language development can be considered complete unless it includes the work of Dr. Paul Bloom. His elegantly written, powerfully convincing work provides a unique door into our modern understanding of language development. In this account Dr. Bloom focuses on a single, critical aspect of language; how children come to understand the meaning of words.

Constructing a Language: A Usage-Based Theory of Language Acquisition by Michael Tomasello. Dr. Tomasello has been acknowledged as one of the world leaders of modern developmental psychology. This book should be considered essential reading in a field that is still largely mired in a 1950’s Skinnerian view of language as “verbal behavior”.

Joint Attention: Communication and Other Minds edited by Naomi Eilan, Chirstoph Hoerl, Teresa McCormack, and Johannes Roessler. Joint Attention has been a pivotal concept in Autism for over twenty years. Unfortunately the concept has been misrepresented and grossly misunderstood in many clinical approaches. This volume presents the thoughts of world experts in Joint Attention including Michael Tomasello, Dare Baldwin and Peter Hobson. Each chapter places a unique spotlight on a different aspect of joint attention.

Wisdom, Intelligence and Creativity Synthesized by Robert J. Sternberg. This is the latest work from noted Yale University professor Dr. Sternberg who, more than any other scientists has worked to understand intelligence in a real-world manner. In this book, Sternberg provides an alternative model for understanding intelligence and many cogent ideas for assessing it and developing the types of cognitive abilities that are most related to real-life success.
posted by kch at 10:03 PM on April 24, 2007

kch's examples have given me a better idea of what you might mean by awareness. I can suggest that, for gesture, nonverbal behaviors, etc., Adam Kendon is definitely *the* authority. For foundations, try either of these books:
Kendon, A. Studies in the Behavior of Face-to-Face Interaction. pp.viii + 260. Lisse, Netherlands: Peter De Ridder Press, 1977
Kendon, A. Conducting Interaction: Patterns of Behavior in Focused Encounters . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 10:17 PM on April 24, 2007

In Communication, as a field, search for Transaction Memory for collective knowledge.

Also, knowledge management in the organizational communication literature may be of some use for collective knowledge.
posted by k8t at 10:59 PM on April 24, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks everyone!

DiscourseMarker - Kendon looks like just the sort of thing I was looking for.

Basically, I'd like to see what other people have identified as the "important" aspects of awareness in face-to-face interaction, and whether we lose any of these things when we add technology into the mix.

For example, when people give powerpoint presentations they often try to "point" at things by waving the cursor around on the screen, but it's easy for the audience to lose sight of the cursor.

However, if that same person were using a blackboard they might use a physical pointer of some sort.

Thus, by adding in technology (powerpoint on a projected display) we've lost some of the physical cues that provided awareness.
posted by sanitycheck at 11:31 PM on April 24, 2007

It may not look like it on first blush, but the resources I gave above should have plenty of info to address exactly the kinds of questions you've written above.
posted by kch at 9:20 PM on April 25, 2007

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