Brain and face


Dr. Stephen Guastello


Chaos and complexity are 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 involving chaos and complexity, please visit the Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology and Life Sciences website.

During the 2013-16 academic years we conducted a rather massive experiment (an emergency response simulation) on the topic of cognitive workload and fatigue that utilize catastrophe theory, which describes and explains sudden and discontinuous changes of events. We were particularly interested in group-level workload, i.e. what we experience from working with a group of people in addition to our own personal workload in the situation.

Another feature of the experiment was physiological synchronization among the team members. We used 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 the group.

In the next phase of work, which we intend to start in Spring 2017 would study many of the same principles but with a team activity that is different from the one we used already. Other nonlinear constructs such as chaotic time series, entropy, self-organization, and synchronization are also involved. We often find new challenges to harness the nonlinear concepts with psychological data.

Another project in the mix is involves the orbital decomposition algorithms (we now have a computer program for it) for recognizing patterns in qualitative data that involve a series of potentially chaotic events. Examples of applications have included the analysis of human conversations, domestic and political violence, 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 or computer skills are also welcome and encouraged.

Interested? Contact

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


Contact the Psychology Department

If you have questions about clinical services, please call the Center for Psychological Services at (414) 288-3487 or fax at (414) 288-6073.

Location: Cramer Hall, 317
Milwaukee, WI 53233

Phone: (414) 288-7218
Fax: (414) 288-5333
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