Projects


Small Group Virtual Dynamics in the Therapeutic setting
Responsible: Rosapia Lauro-Grotto, Andrea Guazzini, Franco Bagnoli

https://sites.google.com/a/complexworld.net/virthulab/projects/small-group-virtual-dynamics-in-the-therapeutic-setting

In his seminal works on group dynamics Bion defined a specific therapeutic setting allowing psychoanalytic observations on group phenomena. In describing the setting he proposed that the group was where his voice arrived. This physical limit was later made operative by assuming that the natural dimension of a therapeutic group 7 is around 12 people. Bion introduced a theory of the group aspects of the mind in which proto-mental individual states spontaneously evolve into shared psychological states that are characterized by a series of features: 1) they emerge as a consequence of the natural tendency of (both conscious and unconscious) emotions to combine into structured group patterns; 2) they have a certain degree of stability in time; 3) they tend to alternate so that the dissolution of one is rapidly followed by the emergence of another; 4) they can be described in qualitative terms according to the nature of the emotional mix that dominates the state, in structural terms by a kind of typical ’leadership’ pattern, and in ’cognitive’ terms by a set of implicit expectations that are helpful in explaining the group behavior (i.e. the group behaves ’as if’ it was assuming that). Our group adopts a formal approach derived from Socio-physics in order to explore some of the structural and dynamic properties of this small group dynamics. We study an analytic DS model simulating small group interactions of agents endowed with a very simplified emotional and cognitive dynamic in order to assess the following main points: 1) are metastable collective states allowed to emerge in the model and if so, under which conditions in the parameter space? 3) can these states be differentiated in structural terms? 3) to what extent are the emergent dynamic features of the systems dependent of the system size? Overall our results support well the validity of the distinction between the small group and large group dynamics that is so well established in clinical practice. Furthermore the picture proposed by Bion that the small group exhibits the tendency to be dominated by collective coherent states emerging due to an immediate and incompressible tendency (i.e. named Valence in Bionian terms) of individual cognitive/affective states to coalesce into collective asymptotic metastable patterns seems to be at all plausible when considered        within a formal non linear group dynamic approach. A point that is worthwhile mentioning is that from the simulations we see that the group dynamics exhibits a certain degree of stability even in the small group case. As a consequence the tools on non linear analysis together with structural network analysis can be applied to describe the group’s behavior in principle even in ecological settings if we are able to operationally describe the interacting behavior of the participants in a convenient way. As a first step in this direction in our dedicated Virtual Ambient for the study of group interactions (here at www.complexworld.net/virthulab) many relevant aspect of the subjects’ interactions can be tracked in vivo. We are particularly interested in analyzing small group dynamics under different task constraints. . The availability of dynamic and network analysis (that could even be related to an analysis of the content of the exchanged messages in the chat) provides a potentially new way to assess issue such as what is it that makes the leader a leader in the group or under which conditions does the group behave as a whole and why in some other conditions fragmented subgroups do emerge in the self-organization process. A further advantage of these new research perspective is that it provides a very natural way to contrast the classical description of a subject in terms of psychological observables with his or her behavior as a participant in the ’ecological’ group setting.

Lauro Grotto, R.,  Guazzini, G. and Bagnoli, F.: Metastable structures and size effects in small group dynamics. (sumitted to the special issue of Front. Psychol. – Psychology for the Clinical Setting: Dynamic systems theory and embodiment in psychotherapy research. A new look at process and outcome). 

 
Small Group Virtual Dynamics
Responsible: Andrea Guazzini, Alessandro Cini

https://sites.google.com/a/complexworld.net/virthulab/projects/small-group-virtual-dynamics-experiments

Beyond their common use for interpersonal communication, chatlines (also chat-rooms) can be formalized as dynamic systems with heuristics. We have studied chatlines in the framework of social networks. The design and data analysis of chatlines opens a new interesting research direction in social network studies. It provides the opportunity of studying the dynamics of human social behaviour in experimental ’controlled’ (or nearly controlled) conditions. Our study aims to point out both the analogy with physical systems of interacting objects and the social network emerging properties linked to the existence of different communication patterns and usage of different heuristics in the participants. We describe guidelines for effective implementation of a chatline in controlled experimental conditions. We identified several parameters which represent meaningful statistical estimators of the activity of the network and we computed the correlation of these parameters and measures of network statistics.

Cognitive Approach to Community Detection
Responsible: Andrea Guazzini, Emanuele Massaro

https://sites.google.com/a/complexworld.net/virthulab/projects/cognitive-community-detection

Detecting communities is a task of great importance in many disciplines, namely sociology, biology and computer science, where systems are often represented as graphs. Community detection is linked to clustering of data: many clustering methods establish links among representa tive points that are nearer than a given threshold, and then proceed in identifying communities on the resulting graphs. Given a graph, a community is a group of vertices “more linked” than between the group and the rest of the graph. This is clearly a  lousy definition, and indeed, or a connected graph, there is not a clear distinction between a community and a rest of the graph. In general, there is a continuum of nested communities whose boundaries are somewhat arbitrary: the structure of communities can be seen as a hierarchical dendogram. A community-detection algorithm should therefore retu

rn different “views”, according to the value of some control parameter. Due to the arbitrariness of the definition, such “views” are relevant if they are not crucially dependent on the precise value of the parameters, i.e., if communities appears as “plateaus” when varying the control parameter.

We want to explore the behavior of exploratory methods inspired to human heuristics, in the hope of exploiting the “social knowledge” of human mind and also for developing more “natural” human-computer interfaces. Clearly, we do not pretend to simulate the real human behavior, but only to study the behavior of simplified models inspired to it. In particular, we deal with the task of identifying communities in an existing graphs, using a local algorithm and not relying on global quantities like betweenness, centrality, etc. An individual is simply modeled as a memory and a set of connections to other individuals. We explore two different approaches: in the first, information about neighboring nodes if propagated and elaborated locally, but the connections do not change. In the second approach, information is not elaborated while it is the wiring that is varied with the result of direct ly connecting to a “central node”. B

oth processes can be considered implementations of the availability heiristic, which is simply the assumption that the most vivid or easily recallable information give an accurate estimate of the frequency of the related event in the population.

In both approaches, the “learning” (nonlinear) phase is modeled after competition in chemical/ecological world. This can be considered an implementation of the anchoring heuristics, in which the judgment or the action is dominated by one or very few pieces of information, the most relevant ones.Cognitive Community Detection.

Cognitive Modeling of Epidemics 
Responsible: Andrea Guazzini, Franco Bagnoli
https://sites.google.com/a/complexworld.net/virthulab/projects/cognitive-modeling-of-epidemics

What is the best set of strategies that can be undertaken to reduce the cost of treating an epidemic?The treatment of an epidemic outbreak requires many resources and has many associated social and economic costs. The measures necessary to prevent a disease into spiralling into a pandemic however are also very costly, both from the point of view of the individual considering them and the government that is subsidising or providing them. Human beings are likely to consider these costs when making decisions and thus they have a major impact on how people will act when face with an epidemic (they play a major role in human behaviour). In this work we intend to examine several strategies of containing an epidemic and an estimate of their associated costs.Notably, our model takes into account of varying awareness of indiviuals to the epidemic during its course as well as varying fatality. For all of the following the costs might be paid completely by the individuals or subsidised or completely paid for by the government.  
Responsible: Elisa Guidi and Cristina Cecchini

https://sites.google.com/a/complexworld.net/virthulab/projects/drm-experiment

Nowadays the virtual community represents an environment suitable to generate social dynamics and to promote the civic engagement of young people. Moreover, even politics and ethics have been influenced in the last years by the Virtual revolution (e.g. Obama election, Pirates Parties all over Europe, Arab Spring, Movimento 5 stelle). Two experiments investigated the effects that small group (pair, trio, or quartet) dynamics has on the individual and collaborative remembering. The memory recognition is strongly related to social problem solving, given that all along people developed social strategies in close contexts, collaborating to remember new information, and starting a so-called collective computation. Deese/Roediger-McDermott (DRM) paradigm was used to analyze the recall of associated words presented and non-presented to collaborative groups, nominal groups, and individuals. The purpose of the experiments was not the examination of task performance, but the description of various aspects of the social interactions among group members, and the check of the possible group influence at a reasoning or encoding level. A chat was applied to simulate a virtual environment (VE), which allowed us to study the dynamics of human social behavior. Data were analyzed to explore the effect of group features, the effect of tests order and communication dynamics. Moreover, the structure of personality and the anxiety status of the participants (n=144) were assessed by the FAST-five and STAI scales. The complex pattern and structure of relations between the group features (i.e. gender, size, socio-psychological dimensions) and the order parameters (i.e. number of errors, communicative strategies) support the models about the “social scripts”. According to the literature, such cognitive strategies appear as hardwired and quite rigid, nevertheless they appear as optimized to take on the most common social problem solving applications. In conclusion, the modeling of the mechanism of the adopted social scripts can provide precious insights for the management of human community dynamics.
Advanced Trustee Game
Responsible: Andrea Guazzini, Franco Bagnoli, Francesca Giardini, Lucia Brigida, Mirko Duradoni.

https://sites.google.com/a/complexworld.net/virthulab/projects/advanced-trustee-game

Reputation systems are currently used, often with success, to ensure the functioning of online services as well as of e-commerce sites. Despite the relationship between reputation and material cooperative behaviours is quite supported, less obvious appears the relationship with informative behaviours, which are crucial for the transmission of reputational information and therefore for the maintenance of cooperation among individuals. The purpose of this study was to verify how reputation affects cooperation dynamics in virtual environment, within a social dilemma situation (i.e., where there are incentives to act selfishly). The results confirm that reputation can activate prosocial conducts, however it highlights also the limitations and distortions that reputation can create.

(Duradoni, M., Guazzini, A., Bagnoli, F. (2016). Non-trivial reputation effects on social decision making in virtual environment. 3rd international conference on Internet Science, Florence, Italy.)

(Giardini, F., Guazzini, A., Duradoni, M., Paolucci, M., Brigida, L., Vilone, D., Bagnoli, F. (2015). Incentivi reputazionali alla cooperazione in un gioco competitivo tra adolescenti: Uno studio sperimentale. AISC2015, 12° Convegno dell'Associazione Italiana di Scienze Cognitive, Genova, Italia. )

Responsible: Alessia Neri, Andrea Guazzini


Nowadays, the Internet has become a crucial part of our lives, and the studies conducted in virtual environments allow to investigate some peculiarities of personality structure induced by the virtual world. 
The purpose of this research is to investigate the possible differences between real and virtual identity, on a sample of 186 subjects, s
tarting from main psychological studies and theories about real identity, and examining recent studies about Digital Self and related variables. The purpose of this study is to shed light on the influence of sociodemographic and psychological variables on Virtual identity, and, in addiction, to investigate the relation between Real Self and Digital Self, thinking that this should be a capital theme of the contemporary social psychology.

Facebook Investigations
Responsible: Andrea Guazzini, Monica Milani, Elisa Guidi, Cristina Cecchini 
                   

Introduction: The most interesting aspect of social networks is the ability for a user to use various options for presenting themselves on their profile, sharing post, personal informations and allowing other users too see and add comments. Recent studies have show how expressing emotions in a post can affect other users, which produce post with similar feelings, in a kind of “emotional contagion” (Kramer, 2014). Other studies have analyzed the online communication strategies of narcisistic subject, investigating the emotional burden of their post compared to other personality traits. There aren’t any studies focused on the presence of emotional contagion among published post and received commentis, particularly in users profile with narcissistic trait. Method: The emotional and linguistic characteristics of post and comments on 50 Facebook’s profiles have been analyzed for one year; furthermore a new algorithm (developed in a previous study) for the evaluation of online narcissism was applied. Two measures have been built to describe the emotional charge (positive or negative) of post and examined comments, in addition to the presence of emotional contagion between them. These measures have been put in relation with the contents of narcissistic profiles and socio-demographic variables on the profiles. Results: It’s observed how, in general, the subjects publish more positive post, aspect that involves receiving a higher number of like, comments and in particular comments with emotional charge consistent with their post, confirming the presence of an emotional contagion. The profiles with greater presence of emotional contagion were found to be those of narcissistic type, who receive more comments and likes. Consequently, publish emotional content is particularly functional to receive more comments, satisfying the narcissistic need of attention.

Crowdsourcing Simulation
Responsible: Andrea Guazzini, Zoran Levnajic, Daniele Vilone, Camillo Donati, Annalisa Nardi               

https://sites.google.com/a/complexworld.net/virthulab/projects/crowdsourcing-simulation

Crowdsourcing is a process of accumulating the ideas, thoughts or information from many independent participants, with aim to find the best solution for a given challenge. Modern information technologies allow for massive number of subjects to be involved in a more or less spontaneous way. Still, the full potentials of crowdsourcing are yet to be reached. We introduce a modeling framework through which we study the effectiveness of crowdsourcing in relation to the level of collectivism in facing the problem. Our findings reveal an intricate relationship between the number of participants and the difficulty of the problem, indicating the optimal size of the crowdsourced group. We discuss our results in the context of modern utilization of crowdsourcing.

(Guazzini, A. et al. Modeling crowdsourcing as collective problem solving. Sci. Rep. 5, 16557; doi: 10.1038/srep16557 (2015). http://www.nature.com/articles/srep16557)

 A Psychosocial Model of Fandom
Responsabile: Alessandra Pescari

https://sites.google.com/a/complexworld.net/virthulab/projects/a-psychosocial-model-of-fandom/a-p
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 Online Social Conformity
Responsabile: 
Coppolino Perfumi, S., Cardelli, C., Bagnoli, F., Guazzini, A.

https://sites.google.com/a/complexworld.net/virthulab/projects/online-social-conformity

The purpose of this research is to investigate the possible differences between a real and a virtual environment in eliciting conformity, on a sample of 181 universitary students. Starting from Sherif and Asch works, social psychology focused on conformity, defining theories and studies, that allowed to distinguish different types of social influence and shed light on the conditions that are more likely to trigger or inhibit this kind of behavior. Nowadays, the Internet has become a crucial part of our lives, and the studies conducted in virtual environments allowed to investigate some peculiarities of human behavior induced by the virtual world’s main characteristic: anonymity. The main theoretical frameworks that analyzed this phenomenon are contradictory, as well as the results that focused on social influence in virtual environments. From our study emerged that whether informational influence, induced with ambiguous stimuli is still effective online, normative influence almost disappears. Furthermore, personality traits do not correlate with conformity and they seem to have an impact only on the subjects response times. Finally, the contextual conditions taken into account, which are the level of anonymity and the physical presence of other people, resulted to have a weak effect on the tendency to conform.

Coppolino Perfumi, S., Cardelli, C., Bagnoli, F., Guazzini, A. (2016) Conformity in virtual environments: a hybrid neurophysiological and psychosocial approach. 3rd international conference on internet science, Florence, Italy (accepted for the proceedings)

 Neural Correlates Of Online Social Conformity
Responsabili: Cardelli Chiara

https://sites.google.com/a/complexworld.net/virthulab/projects/neural-correlates-of-online-social-conformity

In this research we investigated the differences in terms of ERP (Event-related potentials) components between conformist and nonconformist electrophysiological events’ plots in a sample of university subjects. As demonstrated by Shestakova and colleagues (2013) and many others, the conformity phenomenon expresses through specific components tipically associated to ERP components, known as N200 and P300, that respectively indicate the incongruence between subjects’ answer and group answer, and the consequential adjustment of the behavior. After taking into account these results, the goal of this research is to add further value to the scientific findings on the conformity phenomenon investigated through the ERP signals and to analyze further other pontentially interesting ERP components (LPP, RP and ERN). In order to accomplish this, we created an experimental research with the specific purpose of replicating the famous Solomon Asch’s (1951) experiment in an online version, and with the implementation of potentially interesting variables such as the modulation of the type of task, through the creation of cultural and apperceptive stimuli, and the use of an innovative tool that records the brain signal: a wireless headset equipped with fourteen electrodes called Emotiv EPOC. 

 Psychosocial Ergonomic in Crowdsourcing Experiments 
Responsabili: Stefanelli Federica, Imbimbo Enrico

https://sites.google.com/a/complexworld.net/virthulab/projects/psychosocial-ergonomy-in-crowdsourcing-experiments

The main interest of this study was to investigate the phenomenon of collective intelligence in an anonymous virtual environment created for this purpose, checking, how divide a community in different subgroups size, influence the cooperation between the members and the process of problem-solving. Some psychosocial variables were considered in order to check how they affect the cooperative behaviour of partici pants. The experiments, which have considered 216 university students, showed that cooperative behaviour is stronger in small groups that face complex tasks. The cooperation probability negatively correlated with  both the group size and facility of task. Individuals seem to implement  Collective Intelligence when they faced with extremely difficult tasks. Collective Intelligence seems to act as an heuristic activated when the  problem is too complex. Psychosocial variables controlled are found to not have a significant impact on individual cooperation probability, supporting the idea that a partial deindividualization operates in virtual environments.


Stefanelli, F., Imbimbo, E., Bagnoli, F., Guazzini, A. (2016). Collective Intelligence Heuristic: An Experimental Evidence. 3rd international conference on Internet Science, Florence, Italy.
 Modeling of Intimate-Partner Violence 
Responsabili: Elisa Guidi, Franco Bagnoli
IPV modeling
Two stochastic agent-based models are presented as an alternative approach to understand  IPV dynamics. Based on the theory of the  Cycle of Violence, both models have four discrete states: passivity,  normal situation, upset and physical assault.

The first model represents the short-time behavior of a couple, starting from an upsetting episode and ending in an absorbing state that can be either the "normal state", or a state dominated by a predominant violence such as "male violence", "female violence", or "mutual violence/separation".

 The second model simulates the couple dynamics over a longer time span. After defining the transition probabilities, we first analyze  the evolution of the couple in isolation and then we consider the case in which the individuals  modify their behavior  depending on the perceived violence from other couples in their environment  or based on the support received by the informal social networks. Simulation results of the phase diagrams show the emergence of characteristic patterns of IPV dynamics, giving important practical implications for IPV prevention intervention.