Chaos and Complexity Theory

Researcher - Dr. Stephen Guastello


Chaos and complexity theory is comprised 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 and applications of chaos and complexity, please visit the Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology and Life Sciences website.

As of November, 2019, we are starting a rather massive experiment (an emergency response simulation) that involves a combination of ideas involving group-level workload and fatigue, situation awareness, and other group dynamics, and the mathematical models that form the basis of the integrated theory.

Another feature of the experiment is physiological synchronization among the team members. We use the galvanic skin response as a measure of autonomic arousal. The analyses determine how connected each person was with everyone else and produce a single number that describes how synchronized the group was altogether. We are still analyzing data from this project, and we are now investigating the connection between team synchronization and leadership within a group and the relationship between a synchronization and team performance.

We are always looking new opportunities to harness the nonlinear concepts with psychological data, and we usually have some smaller-scale projects in the incubation stage of development. One involves further investigations of the sync coefficient that we developed. Another group of projects involves the orbital decomposition algorithm for recognizing patterns in qualitative data that involve a series of potentially chaotic events. Examples of applications have included human conversations, multitasking strategies, 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 experience or computer skills are also welcome and encouraged.


E-mail Dr. Stephen Guastello to get more information about his research and the position.