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ERC grant for research that will lead to the improvement of group functioning

The European Union grants 2 million euros to Prof. Ilanit Gordon from the Department of Psychology and the Multidisciplinary Center for Brain Research at Bar-Ilan University, for her research that deals with brain, physical and behavioral synchronization during group dynamics

social functioning. Illustration: depositphotos.com
social functioning. Illustration: depositphotos.com

What makes some groups succeed while others fail? Why do some feel a strong connection to their group while others do not? The European Union grants 2 million euros to Prof. Ilanit Gordon from the psychology department AndMultidisciplinary Center for Brain Research at Bar-Ilan University, for her research dealing with mental, physical and behavioral synchronization during group dynamics.

Prof. Ilanit Gordon, head of the "Social Neuroscience" laboratory won a ConsolidatorERC grant. The prestigious ERC grants, which amount to about 2 million euros per research, are given within the Horizon Europe program of the European Union. Prof. Gordon's research deals with the bio-behavioral processes underlying group functioning. Group interaction is part of human evolutionary history and continues to play a central role in modern society. While some groups function harmoniously and productively, others do not. The group processes that influence these outcomes are important since participation in group discourse and activities affects people's well-being and social functioning.

The synchronization processes that occur during group interactions have not yet been fully understood. To fill this gap, Prof. Gordon's research focuses on the synchronous patterns - mental, physiological and behavioral - that arise between group members. Interpersonal synchronization is a spontaneous process that occurs everywhere. This is a key mechanism in social interactions that draws us, for example, to clap along with the crowd or join others in a protest for a certain cause. Context and interpersonal differences regulate bio-behavioral synchronization in a way that guides us to connect to a group or behave as individuals. Synchronization affects the social connections in groups (such as cohesion, trust, closeness, identification) as well as the performance, efficiency, and creativity in it.

Prof. Gordon, who has been researching the subject for five years, explains: "In order to advance the science and understanding of human groups and harness them to create a more cohesive, accepting and productive society, it is important to understand how synchronization affects the results of the group. The goals of the project are to examine whether and how synchronization affects the group's products and its quality, how characteristics of individuals (demographic, psychological, physiological) affect synchronization and the group's products, and finally how competition versus cooperation affects multimodal synchronization and the group's products.

The research will include about 130 groups with five participants in each of them, who will come to the laboratory and perform a series of joint tasks in conditions of competition or cooperation. The group members will be monitored throughout the interaction mentally using EEG, physiologically by measuring heart rates and electrical conductivity in the skin, and with the help of video recording that will enable automatic analysis of movement and facial expressions. This will be the first time that such complex data will be collected from such a large number of human groups while working as a group. According to Prof. Gordon, this is a very ambitious project in this context.

The quality of the group's activity and the group members' feelings towards each other will also be measured. With the help of complex analyses, the research team will be able to discover how the brain, physiological and behavioral synchronization patterns between the participants contribute to the results of the group and the attitude towards it (or destroy them). The study will also refer to interpersonal differences between group members and their influence, in terms of different personality traits.

Prof. Gordon was chosen from among thousands all over Europe thanks to her innovative research proposal. The ERC Consolidator Grant, under which she won the research grant, is intended for researchers with research experience of 7 to 12 years from the completion of their PhD.

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