Choas: Pushing our Understanding - Complexity Explained,- Understanding our Complex Existence

Chaos and complexity are a set of mathematical constructs that describe how systems change over time. We use these principles to inform theory and experiments on psychological topics. To see some of the basic ideas involving chaos and complexity, please visit the Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology and Life Sciences website.

During the 2009-14 academic years we have designed and conducted a series of experiments on the topic of cognitive workload and fatigue that utilize catastrophe theory, which describes and explains sudden and discontinuous changes of events. Some of this work is still in progress. Other chaos and complexity topics in the recent past have involved the emergence of leaders from groups that perform different types of tasks and group coordination dynamics. Some of the ideas are relevant to emergency response situations.

In the next phase of work we intend to combine the group dynamics and cognitive dynamics to study cognitive workload in groups. Other nonlinear constructs such as chaotic time series, entropy, self-organization, and synchronization are also involved. We often find new challenges to harness the nonlinear concepts with psychological data.

Another project in the mix is involves the orbital decomposition algorithms (we now have a computer program for it) for recognizing patterns in qualitative data that involve a series of potentially chaotic events. Examples of applications have included the analysis of human conversations, domestic and political violence, and the temporal organization and display of clinical symptoms.

New undergraduate research assistants should, ideally, have completed Psyc 2001 (statistics) and Psyc 2050 (research methods) and be available for at least two semesters for course credit. Other types of research or computer skills are also welcome and encouraged

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