Virtual Small Group Dynamics:a Quantitative Experimental Framework

Andrea Guazzini; Franco Bagnoli; Rosapia Lauro-Grotto; Alessandro Cini
We present a research framework consisting of a standard chat environment and a set of analytical tools, able to detect some relevant characteristics of the group dynamics of interacting people. The analysis is independent of the semantic content of the exchanged messages, and the standardized interface avoids hard-to-detect non-verbal communications, still providing the expression of emotional contents. This study proposes a quantitative approach to the investigation of the cognitive small group dynamics, considering the personal representation of the others, and communication dynamics. We developed a framework for the analysis that merges the complex network theory with concepts from social psychology and sociophysics. The focus of the framework is a quantitative investigation of how people explore and build their cognitive representation of the social space. Moreover two different experimental tasks have been proposed in order to investigate the role of some ecological constraints on the cognitive heuristics used by the subjects. The results show how people behave differently with respect to the task they are facing. In particular the absolute and the relative frequencies of the messages and their qualitative aspects significantly differ between the two conditions, as so as the cognitive strategies used by subjects to assess the affinity with the others.
Virtual Dynamics; Small Group; Social Psychology; Complex Systems
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