Holy Cross Psychology Professor Helps Lead a $1.4 Million Grant

October 31st, 2013 by 
Richard Schmidt

Richard Schmidt, professor of psychology at the College of the Holy Cross, is one of two principal investigators on a project titled “Modeling the Behavioral Dynamics of Social Action and Coordination,” which was recently awarded a $1.4 million grant by the National Institutes of Health.

Schmidt and colleagues will be examining bodily movement in interactive social actions – including conversation and competitive sport tasks – to be able to understand the dynamical processes underlying them. The mathematical models developed in this five-year project are anticipated to have a transformative impact on numerous fields, including the study of human movement science, the breakdown of social coordination in autism and schizophrenia, and human-robot interactions.

The grant involves faculty researchers at other universities, including Michael Richardson (principal investigator) and Rachel Kallen from the University of Cincinnati, Elliot Saltzman from Boston University, and Steve Harrison from the University of Nebraska. Also, Patricia Kramer, professor of psychology at Holy Cross, and Bob Caron from Assumption College are participating as consultants.

For 12 years, Schmidt and Richardson have been collaborating on understanding the dynamics of interpersonal synchronization. The pair has earned a number of National Science Foundation grants, which contributed to building the foundation for the current more ambitious grant.

The study will develop dynamical models of four distinct social interaction tasks that require physical coordination: rhythmic targeting tasks, social object-moving tasks, conversation tasks, and competitive sports tasks. At Holy Cross, Schmidt and his two student research assistants, Kelly Clarke ’16 and Alison Franco ’15, both psychology majors, will be in charge of investigating the competitive sports tasks and conversation tasks.

“For the competitive sports tasks,” explains Schmidt, “We are studying a martial arts (Aikido) exercises in which an attacker’s overhead strike is disarmed by a defender. We are interested in mathematically modeling the synchronous nature of the defender’s movements and how the advantage of the attacker is taken through anticipating then leading their strike.”

Schmidt says for the conversation tasks, he is interested in modeling the coupling of body rhythms when people are speaking to one another. To investigate this, he will have subjects perform structured conversation tasks like telling jokes to one another or trying to reach a consensus on “one thing they would like to see changed on campus”.

Schmidt’s student researchers will be conducting experiments where they record people’s bodily movements. Then, the three will determine how particular dynamical properties of coordination change under different task, information and physical conditions. From this data, the faculty research team will develop dynamical models of the steady state behavioral modes observed as well as transitions to and from those modes.

Kelly Clarke ’16, who hopes to major in psychology and religious studies, is one of the Schmidt’s student researchers. Clarke, who is currently enrolled in his “Cognition and Memory” class, says “I have always wanted to help autistic and schizophrenic patients. If our research goes well, we could create a robot that would be therapeutic to those patients.”

Schmidt also has a personal curiosity about his grant research as well as a longtime practitioner of the martial art of Aikido. “I am most looking forward to understanding more about how a defender takes the advantage of an attacker in our Aikido task experiment,” he says.  “I have always wanted to understand this skill, which is often characterized spiritually in the martial arts, in scientific or mathematical terms. Not that this will in anyway enhance my Aikido skill! But it will satisfy my curiosity.”

For additional information, please contact Cristal Steuer at 508-793-2419.

| More

Comments are closed.

07/21/16 Holy Cross Professors Discuss Economic Uncertainty in the Wake of Brexit
07/19/16 Message from President Regarding Recent Events
07/18/16 Holy Cross Professor Helps Demystify How America Views Medicated Children
07/15/16 Holy Cross Mathematics Professor is Named Executive Director of the American Mathematical Society
See All
See All
Featured Videos

See video
Video: Total Giving to Holy Cross Breaks Record With $46.7 Million Raised

Watch Video >
See video
Video: Spring Blooms on Holy Cross Campus

Watch Video >
See video
Video: Class of 2016 Shares What’s Next

Watch Video >
See video
‘Major in Anything…Succeed in Business’

Watch Video >
See video
Photo Gallery, Video: Obama Advisor Broderick Johnson ’78 Speaks on ‘My Brother’s Keeper,’ Other White House Initiatives

Watch Video >
See video
Crusaders Win Patriot League Championship

Watch Video >
See video
Men’s Basketball Knocks Off Bucknell In Double Overtime Thriller

Watch Video >
See video
New Webcams Provide Live Video Stream of Campus, Contemplative Center

Watch Video >
See video
Photo Gallery: Contemplative Center Architectural Concepts Come to Fruition

Watch Video >
See video
Video: Winter on the Hill Is All About Making Memories

Watch Video >
More What’s Happening on Campus

Family Wee

nd 2016

See More >
Family Wee

nd 2016

See More >
Family Wee

nd 2016

See More >
Holy Cross

nstallation Opening and Artist Reception

See More >
More Holy Cross in the News

07/18/16

Holy Cross Professor Helps Demystify How America Views Medicated Children

Pacific Standard | The Week

  The Pacific Standard picked the brain of Ara Francis, assistant professor of sociology at the College of the Holy Cross, to myth-bust the way America understands...

07/11/16

Holy Cross Alumna Making Headlines for her Fight Against Tobacco

Forbes | Yahoo! Finance | Christian Science Monitor |Drug Store News

For Eileen Howard Boone ’86, “the social responsibility part of corporate leadership started as a side job and blossomed into an entire career,” according to a recent...

07/08/16

Holy Cross Ranks No. 25 Among Liberal Arts Colleges on Forbes’ List of America’s Top Colleges

College receives an ‘A+’ for Fiscal Soundness

The College of the Holy Cross ranked No. 25 among liberal arts colleges, No. 42 among private colleges and No. 51 overall in a group of more than 650 public and private...