On January 20, 1992, the Center for the Study of Group Processes was formally established at the Department of Sociology of the University of Iowa. This represents an explicit commitment by the University to provide infrastructural support for multidisciplinary research on group processes.
The mission of the center includes:
- Promoting basic research in the field of group processes enhancing the professional development of faculty and graduate students in the social sciences
- Facilitating the development of proposals for external funding
- Strengthening the reputation of the University of Iowa as an innovative place for theory-based, scientific research on group processes
In service of this mission, the Center seeks to:
- Maintain a laboratory with sufficient equipment and space to meet the needs of faculty and graduate students engaged in classic and cutting-edge group processes research at our university
- Stimulate cross-disciplinary intellectual exchanges among scholars studying group processes
- Facilitate the development of stronger interdisciplinary components in the graduate curricula of diverse departments
- Attract visiting faculty from the U.S. and abroad to spend sabbatical leaves at the University of Iowa in conjunction with the Center
- Organize periodic mini-conferences or workshops that bring together scholars from outside the university to work intensively on a particular problem
Creating the Center, it was hoped, would help to assemble the "critical mass" of interested faculty and students, research activities and resources, needed to make this the premier group processes research facility in the world.
We define "group" very broadly. Included are formal organizations, political groups, families, intimates, social categories and societies. Two issues are especially pertinent to our interests, however: (1) the discovery and analysis of general principles underlying group processes across diverse empirical settings, and (2) the interplay between individual and group levels of analysis.
The group processes area is inherently interdisciplinary, offering a broad, theme under which a variety of strands may be unified. For example, it may subsume sociological work on status, public goods research by economists, political scientists' interests in the balance of power and deterrence in international settings, communications research on interpersonal strategies, organizational scholars' research on group decision making, and psychological work on social judgments. The role of group processes in human behavior is a fundamental, cross-cutting issue for the social sciences.
The Center places a strong emphasis on theory-driven research, that is, conducting tests of group process theories, developing innovative methods and procedures for doing so, and employing and/or devising rigorous and appropriate analytic and statistical tools. In addition to consolidating ongoing group processes research by members of the Sociology faculty, the Center seeks to mobilize an interdisciplinary community of scholars on the University of Iowa campus. Doing so will crystallize the complementary strengths of several departments including Sociology, Communication Studies, Economics, Management and Organizations, Political Science, and Psychology.
3. Facilities & Resources
The Center for the Study of Group Processes is a state-of-the art research facility that brings faculty and students together to collaborate on ground-breaking research. Students participate in all phases of the research, from development of theoretical insight, designing and conducting empirical research, data analysis, to writing and publication of the projects.
The Center includes an 18-room facility encompassing three laboratories: Social Interaction & Networks Laboratory (SIN Lab), Socio-Physiological Instrumentation Technology Laboratory (SPIT Lab), and Virtual Immersive Social Environments Laboratory (VICE Lab):
Social Interaction and Networks (SIN) Laboratory
(Alison Bianchi, Director)
The SIN Lab offers several computer-networked subject rooms, full studio-quality audio/visual recording and editing capabilities, and larger group rooms with flexible space for research on face-to-face interaction.
The image at left shows two of the several graduate research assistants affiliated with the SIN Lab (Christopher Kelley, on the left, and Layana Navarre-Jackson, on the right) pilot testing a new experimental protocol for computer-mediated interaction.
Socio-Physiological Instrumentation Technology (SPIT) Laboratory
(Christabel Rogalin, Interim Director)
The SPIT Lab includes cutting-edge technology for research related to affect and emotion, including instrumentation for conducting hormone assays, analyzing respiratory depth and rate, examining galvanic skin response, and investigating speech patterning.
At left is an image showing three of many graduate research assistants who collaborate with faculty in the SPIT Lab (from left-to-right: Bridget Conlon, Christabel Rogalin, and Nikki Wolensky). Here, they are preparing samples of saliva for a human stress hormone assay.
Virtual Immersive Social Environments (VISE) Laboratory
(Professor Lisa Troyer, Director)
The VISE Lab houses technology for developing and manipulating virtual reality environments, including 3-D modeling software, virtual environment scripting software, immersive head-mounted display, and a precision digital tracking system.
Several graduate students are affiliated with the VICE Lab. The image at left shows two students (Shane Soboroff (on theleft) and Erica Dusenberry (on the right)) assessing a new virtual immersive environment for conducting social influence research.
Click on Map of the Center for a schematic of the Center laboratories. As the schematic indicates, the laboratories share three control rooms, instrument workshop, waiting areas, storage and office space for graduate students. The Center for the Study of Group Processes regularly funds student research and travel to professional conferences. Additionally, students affiliated with the Center for the Study of Group Processes are exceptionally successful at winning prestigious National Science Foundation grants.
Although some other Sociology departments have small-groups laboratories, there are none that have an established infrastructure as extensive as that associated with the lab at Iowa. Furthermore, our laboratory is part of a larger interdisciplinary center geared toward assembling people--researchers and students--in addition to resources and equipment for individual projects.
Maintaining and developing these unique and valuable features is the task of the Center's administration. Internal funding for the Center is approved by the Dean of Liberal Arts. The highest level of direct administrative control over the Center, however, is located in the Sociology Department.
The Center's Director is a member of the Sociology faculty appointed by the Dean of Liberal Arts to a three-year term. The Director oversees the entire operation of the Center, organizes inter-disciplinary activities, facilitates the acquisition of external funding for training and research, and allocates seed funds for projects. The Associate Director is appointed by the Center Director to help with these activities.
The Assistant Director is a graduate research assistant whose duties include equipment maintenance, project coordination, assisting laboratory users in the operation of equipment, coordinating computer programming and software development and, in some cases, helping with the execution of specific research projects.
Members of a multidisciplinary Advisory Board assist the director in policy development and other matters relating to the goals and mission of the Center. The Advisory Board also serves as a sounding board for the director on how to develop various components of the laboratory so that it best serves the needs of social science faculty.