Team interaction; coordination; dynamical systems; synchronization; complimentarity; collaboration; problem solving; team performance; cognitive science


This dissertation contributes an enhanced understanding of team cognition, in general, and collaborative problem solving (CPS), specifically, through an integration of methods that measure team interaction dynamics and knowledge building as it occurs during a complex CPS task. The need for better understanding CPS has risen in prominence as many organizations have increasingly worked to address complex problems requiring the combination of diverse sets of individual expertise to achieve solutions for novel problems. Towards this end, the present research drew from theoretical and empirical work on Macrocognition in Teams that describes the knowledge coordination arising from team communications during CPS. It built from this by incorporating the study of team interaction during complex collaborative cognition. Interaction between team members in such contexts has proven to be inherently dynamic and exhibiting nonlinear patterns not accounted for by extant research methods. To redress this gap, the present research drew from work in cognitive science designed to study social and team interaction as a nonlinear dynamical system. CPS was examined by studying knowledge building and interaction processes of 43 dyads working on NASA*s Moonbase Alpha simulation, a CPS task. Both non-verbal and verbal interaction dynamics were examined. Specifically, frame-differencing, an automated video analysis technique, was used to capture the bodily movements of participants and content coding was applied to the teams* communications to characterize their CPS processes. A combination of linear (i.e., multiple regression, t-test, and time-lagged cross-correlation analysis), as well as nonlinear analytic techniques (i.e., recurrence quantification analysis; RQA) were applied. In terms of the predicted interaction dynamics, it was hypothesized that teams would exhibit synchronization in their bodily movements and complementarity in their communications and further, that teams more strongly exhibiting these forms of coordination will produce better problem solving outcomes. Results showed that teams did exhibit a pattern of bodily movements that could be characterized as synchronized, but higher synchronization was not systematically related to performance. Further, results showed that teams did exhibit communicative interaction that was complementary, but this was not predictive of better problem solving performance. Several exploratory research questions were proposed as a way of refining the application of these techniques to the investigation of CPS. Results showed that semantic code-based communications time-series and %REC and ENTROPY recurrence-based measures were most sensitive to differences in performance. Overall, this dissertation adds to the scientific body of knowledge by advancing theory and empirical knowledge on the forms of verbal and non-verbal team interaction during CPS, but future work remains to be conducted to identify the relationship between interaction dynamics and CPS performance.


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Graduation Date





Fiore, Stephen


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Sciences

Degree Program









Release Date

August 2015

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Sciences; Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic