During my career I have conducted a program of research investigating the process by which people regulate and control their social interaction with others. With this common thread my primary emphases have been upon the role of nonverbal components of interaction (particularly spatial behavior) and upon the consequences that environmental stress (particularly crowding stress and work stress) exerts on this regulatory process.
My research includes inquiries into: the normative spatial behavior of various groups (establishing a baseline for later investigations); the developmental pattern through which spatial and other nonverbal behaviors employed during interaction are acquired during childhood, adolescence, and adulthood; the validity of the numerous indirect measures of spatial behavior in particular and interpersonal involvement in general; and physiological, social, cognitive, and behavioral responses to restricted space (i.e., crowding that involves the close physical proximity of others), high social density (i.e., crowding that involves a large number of others), and other environmental stressors (e.g., a stressful work environment).
I have extended my program of research in three related directions. First, there are many situations particularly in the workplace where it is required that one member of a relationship evaluate the other member and that s/he provide feedback relating to the evaluations. How the feedback is presented (both verbally and nonverbally) and how it is received (with respect to its consistency with prior cognitions, its self-enhancing qualities, and its self-assessment characteristics of judgments about the evaluation) play an important role in the future effectiveness of that relationship and in the performance outcomes of both individuals. Hence, the role of feedback in the process by which people regulate and control their social interaction with others became an important component in a number of my more recent studies and will continue to be examined in future research.
Second, the technological advances and computer software development in the workplace have made it possible for employers to monitor the work of many individuals on moment-to-moment basis. This represents a serious change in the work lives of millions of employees. In our research we have found that constant surveillance often leads to increased worker stress and may be associated with a variety of stress-related illnesses. A series of studies have examined the effects of this "electronic presence," using a social facilitation (theoretical) framework. It seems quite clear that this important change in the workplace has the potential for dramatically altering the relationships of workers and their supervisors.
Our studies have explored the specific nature of this impact, as well as the moderating role of other context variables (e.g., whether computer monitoring is done at an individual or work group level, whether the task climate is positive or punitive, whether the pattern of supervisor feedback changes). Other studies have investigated the effect on supervisors of "continually available" performance information (e.g., how does s/he cognitively process this new type of information, how is the performance appraisals process altered, does the supervisor spend more time watching his or her computer screen and less time with workers).
Third, our research has investigated telecommuting and virtual teams, the impacts of a multitasking environment, the effect of interruptions(via various channels)on task performance, the role of technology in the development of relationships, and personality predictors of performance. Recently, our NSF-funded research also has focused on communication and leadership factors associated with recovery in post-Katrina New Orleans.
I have taught a broad range of courses. They have included large lecture classes, such as Principles of Social Psychology and Environmental Psychology, as well as small undergraduate (e.g., Organizational and Personnel Psychology) and graduate (e.g., Introduction to Industrial/Organization Psychology and Social Psychology of Organizations) seminars.
My teaching endeavors extend beyond the classroom, however. With the support of former Douglass Dean Jewel Cobb, I initiated and obtained external funding for an innovative internship program (i.e., the Science/Management Certificate Program) for female science majors. During its first five years and then again from 1988 until 1992, I directed this pioneer program (the first of its kind in the nation) and supervised the internship placements of the students. The more than 100 students who have been members of this program have uniformly reported feeling that it was "one of the most beneficial facets of their college careers."