Artificial Intelligence and Social Simulation: Studying Group Dynamics on a Massive Scale

[We’re pleased to welcome authors, Jesse Hoey of the University of Waterloo, Tobias Schröder of Potsdam University of Applied Sciences, Jonathan Morgan of Potsdam University of Applied Sciences, Kimberly B. Rogers of Dartmouth College, Deepak Rishi of the University of Waterloo, and Meiyappan Nagappan of the University of Waterloo. They recently published an article in Small Group Research entitled “Spotlight on Methods: Artificial Intelligence and Social Simulation: Studying Group Dynamics on a Massive Scale,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, They discusses some of the findings of this research:]

SGR_72ppiRGB_powerpointTechnological and social innovations are increasingly generated through informal, distributed processes of collaboration, rather than in formal, hierarchical organizations. In this article, we present a novel combination of data-driven and model-based approaches to explore the social and psychological mechanisms motivating these modern self-organized collaborations. We focus on the example of open, collaborative software development in online collaborative networks like GitHub ( The synthesized approach is based in affect control theory (ACT), and a recent framing in Artificial Intelligence known as Bayesian affect control theory (BayesACT). The general assumption of ACT is that humans are motivated in their social interactions by affective alignment: They strive for their social experiences to be coherent at a deep, emotional level with their sense of identity and general worldviews as constructed through culturally shared symbols. This alignment is used in BayesACT as a control mechanism to generate artificially intelligent agents that can learn to be functioning members of a social order (see for further information).

We show in this article how such a model solves two basic problems in the social scientific study of groups and teams. First, because empirical research on groups relies on manual coding, it is hard to study groups in large numbers (the scaling problem). Second, conventional statistical methods in behavioral science often fail to capture the nonlinear interaction dynamics occurring in small groups (the dynamics problem). The ACT-based models we present allow for sophisticated machine learning techniques to be combined in a parsimonious way with validated social-psychological models of group behaviour such that both of these problems are solved in a single computational model.

The purpose of the present article is to discuss the promises of this cross-disciplinary, computational approach to the study of small group dynamics. We review computational methods for using large amounts of social media data, and connect these methods to theoretically informed models of human behaviour in groups. To use a metaphor, we are digging into digital group dynamics data with a sophisticated, artificially intelligent shovel, and showing how computational social science can be taken to a new level with this unique and novel combination of data-driven and model-based approaches. The work is an international collaboration called THEMIS.COG ( between researchers in Canada (University of Waterloo), the USA (Dartmouth College), and Germany (Potsdam University of Applied Sciences).

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Does a Community of Practice Aid Recently Displaced Workers?

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Dr. David Gray of the University of Greenwich and Dr. Yiannis Gabriel of the University of Bath. They recently published an article in Management Learning entitled “A community of practice or a working psychological group? Group dynamics in core and peripheral community participation,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Gray briefly describes their research and its significance to the present:]

mlqb_48_3.coverIn this article, we describe the Silver Academy, a project involving over 100 unemployed and self-employed managers over the age of 50, who came together with the purpose of sharing knowledge and experience in starting up their own businesses. The starting point for the study was whether this group of demoralized managers who had recently experienced traumatic redundancies from highly paid and prestigious jobs could function as a community of practice – whether, in other words, they could function as a community not only supporting each other emotionally but sharing knowledge, skills and networks in radically restarting their lives outside the corporate world. During the project we noted that the Academy successfully matched the notion of a community of practice, in that participants built mutual relationships, shared engagement in activities and came to regard themselves as a ‘forum’, ‘support network’ and a ‘community of interest’. However, applying Bion’s (1961) theory of groups, our study challenges the homogenous and consensual notion of a community of practice, illustrating how, through unconscious group processes, some group members exhibited work-group mentality and the capacity for realistic hard work (and leadership), while others were caught in a basic-assumption mentality, prone to feelings of anxiety, guilt and depression, or in the words of one participant becoming ‘a group of lost souls’. As a longitudinal, three year study, in contrast to the more commonly undertaken cross-sectional studies, ours reveals many of the intricate dynamics, fissures, splits and conflicts in a community of practice that tend to go unreported.

We believe that our research has considerable value at a time of great dislocations in employment patterns, when automation and artificial intelligence will draw increasing numbers of people (including professionals and managers) to situations similar to those facing the members of the Silver Academy. Forming communities of practice aimed at sharing knowledge may be a first step towards discovering new meaningful work opportunities and restoring their careers. The success of such communities of practice, however, will depend on the extent to which they will manage to channel their energy and creativity to productive ends while managing collective and individual anxieties.

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Job Crafting as Reaction to Organizational Change

arrows-2027262_960_720We’re pleased to welcome authors Dr. Marlene Walk of Indiana University-Purdue University and Dr. Femida Handy of the University of Pennsylvania. They recently published an article in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science entitled “Job Crafting as Reaction to Organizational Change,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Walk briefly describes the research and its significance.

JAB_72ppiRGB_powerpointWere there any specific external events—political, social, or economic—that influenced your decision to pursue this research?

The organizational change we study originated in an external event; the implementation of inclusive education in the German education sector. We focus on one state, Lower Saxony, where the implementation started relatively late as compared to others.

   In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

This particular study is innovative as it particularly focuses on proactivity during organizational change. Whereas proactivity has been identified as potential reaction for change, there is not much empirical research available. We identify job crafting as positive and proactive reaction to change in a previous qualitative study and hypothesize in this work how job crafting is related to burnout and job satisfaction during organizational change.

 What is the most important/ influential piece of scholarship you’ve read in the last year?

Definitely the work by Shaul Oreg and his colleagues Jean Bartunek, Gayoung Lee, and Boram Do, who developed an affect-based model of recipients’ responses to organizational change events, published in 2018 in Academy of Management Review. This paper served as one of the frameworks for our publications.

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Arrow Photo attributed to Free-Photos (CC)

More Than One-on-One: The Impact of Mentoring Relationships on Coworkers

15279320070_6902499a19_zResearch on mentorship in the workplace rarely expands beyond the individuals involved in a mentoring relationship, but what kind of impact does mentorship have on individuals outside the relationship? A recent article from Group & Organization Management from authors Suzanne Janssen, Joël Tahitu, Mark van Vuuren, and Menno D. T. de Jong entitled “Coworkers’ Perspectives on Mentoring Relationships” expands research on mentorship to find out how mentoring relationships impact the performance and climate of teams. The abstract for the article:

Research into workplace mentoring is primarily focused on the experiences and perceptions of individuals involved in the relationship, while there is scarcely any research focusing on the impact of mentoring relationships on their social environment. This exploratory research aims to give insight into how coworkers’ perceptions and experiences of informal mentoring relationships in their workgroup are related to their perceptions of workgroup functioning. The results of 21 Current Issue Coversemistructured interviews show that coworkers believe that mentoring relationships affect their workgroup’s functioning by influencing both their workgroup’s performance and climate. Coworkers applied an instrumental perspective and described how they think that mentoring relationships both improve and hinder their workgroup’s performance as they influence the individual functioning of mentor and protégé, the workgroup’s efficiency, and organizational outcomes. Furthermore, coworkers applied a relational perspective and described how mentoring relationships may influence their workgroup’s climate in primarily negative ways as they may be perceived as a subgroup, cause feelings of distrust and envy, and are associated with power issues. The results of this study emphasize the importance of studying mentoring relationships in their broader organizational context and set the groundwork for future research on mentoring relationships in workgroups.

You can read the article, “Coworkers’ Perspectives on Mentoring Relationships,” from Group & Organization Management for free by clicking here.

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*Image attributed to Matt Biddulph (CC)

’12 Angry Men’ and Group Dynamics

SGR_72ppiRGB_150pixwA new article published in Small Group Research by Mary J. Waller, Golchehreh Sohrab, and Bernard W. Ma of York University explains how showing brief film excerpts in class can be an effective way to teach group dynamics to management students:

In our opinion, the ability to quickly recognize group behavior in situ, understand how that behavior maps onto fundamental group processes, and then take appropriate action all represent critical skills for students of group dynamics. However, discussion of the development of such skills is missing from the group dynamics textbooks we reviewed … as well as from textbooks on organizational behavior …. We suggest that the recognition of group behavior in dynamic organizational settings is a specific ability that may be developed through the use of film as a pedagogical tool. In effect, this ability rests on the concept of thin slicing group behaviors—that is, the ability to recognize and correctly identify behaviors based only on a thin slice of interaction …. Existing research provides evidence that individuals trained to recognize specific human behaviors, such as those involved in negotiations, can accurately do so using only very brief thin-sliced examples of real behavior …. In this article, we suggest ways in which using multiple brief excerpts from films in rapid sequence can help students develop quick and accurate real-time recognition of group behaviors.

Read the article, “Beyond 12 Angry Men: Thin-Slicing Film to Illustrate Group Dynamics,” in the Small Group Research OnlineFirst section.

Happily Ever After

Charles A. Funk, Northeastern Illinois University, and Brian W. Kulik, Hawaii Pacific University, published “Happily Ever After: Toward a Theory of Late Stage Group Performance” on November 11th, 2011 in Group & Organization Management’s OnlineFirst collection.To view other OnlineFirst articles, please click here.

The abstract:

This article develops a theory of late stage group performance based on the late stage group’s unique characteristics: a long shared history, an indefinite endpoint, a long member entry/exit history, and a long “parent” organization relationship. These characteristics are markedly different from those of earlier stage groups, suggesting that extant literature’s limited “maintenance” or “cyclical” prescriptions are insufficient for effective late stage group management. Six propositions are developed to model the relationship between late stage group characteristics and performance. Managerial implications are also discussed and a late stage group research agenda is proposed.

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Submit your research to The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science

New Editor for the Journal of Applied Behavioral ScienceWilliam A. Pasmore, invites authors to submit manuscripts to be published in the upcoming issue. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science is the leading international journal on the effects of evolutionary and planned change. Founded and sponsored by the NTL Institute, the Journal is continually breaking ground in its exploration of group dynamics, organization development, and social change. As JABS has global acclaim, your publication in this journal will benefit you in a variety of ways:

  • Rigorous peer review of your research
  • Prompt publishing
  • Immediate, worldwide, barrier-free, access to the full-text of your articles
  • High visibility for maximum exposure for your research globally to a multidisciplinary audience

The prompts for submission are open-ended, and include topics such as:

  • Group Dynamics
  • Organization Development
  • Research Methods
  • Race and Ethnicity
  • Health Care
  • Leadership and Management
  • Psychology
  • Gender
  • Sociology
  • Applied Anthropology
  • Organizational Psychology
  • Experiential Methods

Also, you will be supported by a world class editorial board which includes Editor, William A. Pasmore of Columbia University, Managing Editor, Mary Pasmore, and Associate Editors: Jean M. Bartunek of Boston College, W. Warner Burke of Columbia University, Karen J. Jansen of the University of Virginia, Michael R. Manning of New Mexico State University, Jean Neuman of The Tavistock Institute, and Ramkrishnan Tenkasi of Benedictine University.

Click here to view the full call for papers.  

 Click here to view the entire JABS Editorial Board.

You may view the Manuscript Submission Guidelines, and submit your article through SAGETrack.

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