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Development of an Objective Behavioral Assay of Cohesion to Enhance Composition, Task Performance, and Psychosocial Adaptation in Long-Term Work Groups

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

The long-term goal of the proposed research is to deliver a software tool (currently referred to by its working title of “Team Performance Task” [TPT]) that will allow long-duration exploration crews to autonomously derive objective, standardized, and quantifiable measures on social dynamics while serving as a decision-aid tool in astronaut selection and multinational crew composition. This approach is unique because it is simple, rapid, and operationally feasible like a questionnaire, but is entirely objective, is innovative in that it requires a group-level demonstration of social dynamics rather than relying on individual opinions, and is language-independent, thus making it suitable for cross-cultural applications. Such an empirically validated and operationally feasible software deliverable will contribute to an overall risk mitigation strategy comprised of quantitative, qualitative, objective, and subjective assessment technologies. To accomplish this, we have been conducting ground-based experiments to systematically investigate the effects of group composition (gender and personality) on voluntary cooperative propensity in 3-person teams. We are also assessing the predictive validity of pre-mission TPT "social personality profiles" and the effects of group composition on performance, task cohesion, social cohesion, and biopsychosocial adaptation in mixed-gender "crews" participating in a long-term simulated space exploration task. We are also developing next-generation software to advance the technology beyond our current prototype used for proof-of-concept/validation research into a broadly applicable tool with cross-platform networking and connectivity, enhanced usability/human factors features, extensive parameter manipulation/flexibility to maximize sensitivity, and integrated data collection and processing capabilities. The proposed project will elucidate the influences of personality, gender, behavior, and neurobiology at the individual and group levels while yielding powerful experimental insights on the relationships between group composition, mission performance, task cohesion, social cohesion, and psychosocial adaptation in long-term work groups. The work will provide a scientifically validated TPT concept translated into a flexible and operationally acceptable software tool suitable for field studies of predictive validity and/or countermeasure potential in mission-oriented analog populations and/or high-risk operational and long-duration space analog environments. This work will contribute to the empirical knowledge base used to inform the processes of crew selection, composition, training, monitoring, and maintenance, and will ultimately yield a broadly applicable software tool to help mitigate risks and maximize behavioral health and performance for long-duration space exploration.

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