INTERDEPENDENCE & INFLUENCE IN GROUPS LAB

WELCOME!

 

Dr. Evans joined the Industrial/Organizational area within the Department of Psychology in July, 2020. As the interdependence and influence in groups lab gets off of the ground, we would love to hear from students curious about research opportunities, organizations interested in partnering, or colleagues interested in connecting (mevan3@uwo.ca).

 

We are considering graduate student applications for 2021/2022. Please feel free to reach out via email to Dr. Evans to describe yourself and your interests. Still, even though Dr. Evans strives to interact with every potential applicant, the volume of applications means that Dr. Evans is unlikely to correspond at length with applicants until after all applications are submitted. For more information about our graduate program and the application process, please visit our departmental website.

WHAT DO WE STUDY?

 

We explore why and how groups influence members’ health behaviors as well as member wellbeing. We use theories related to social interdependence, social identity, and social norms to understand peoples’ connections to groups. Two key assumptions underpin why we focus on small groups like workplace teams, exercise classes, and student clubs: 

  1. Small groups can be a vital context for social participation that is crucial for wellbeing 

  2. Small groups have unique features that can strengthen members’ connection to one another, which makes the behaviors of other members more salient for each person 

 

Health behavior in relation to small group memberships. We study how relationships with other members of small groups can influence health behavior. Most of our research involves physical activity, but we are increasingly integrating additional health behaviors (e.g., alcohol use) while also considering group members’ wellbeing. As one example of this approach, we partnered with a fitness organization to survey over 800 exercisers to examine perceptions of groupness in fitness classes. Resulting publications included multilevel models to develop a measure of groupness and examine associations with exercise affect, basic needs satisfaction, and weekly attendance at group fitness. 

Advancing methods to understand small groups. Small groups are complex. Researchers must therefore use methods that disentangle this complexity… or at least control for it. In quantitative study design, this means that it is often necessary to sample intact real-life groups that include the features we come to expect, rather than creating them in a lab. Surveying groups also involves specifying analyses at individual and group levels using multilevel modelling. We also study groups through qualitative interviews, and have to develop strategies that capture vivid representations of group life (i.e., interviewing several group members; integrating media like photos). 

We are especially excited about social network analysis. Network studies that we conduct ask members to complete sociometric items, such as nominating teammates with whom they are closest. We then construct networks that represent all ties among members.  For example, we have conducted studies examining whether being ‘central’ within a group may predict how strongly individuals identify with groups, whether individuals stay committed to physical activity, and whether group members are more (or less) likely to adhere to group alcohol use norms.  

This is an image of a network constructed within a Brazillian Jiu Jitsu club. The dots/triangles are members or staff, and lines represent the ties between members who interacted frequently.  Members who were more central within this network reported stronger identification with their group and were more likely to continue being a member at a 7-month follow-up timepoint.

Collaborations. We also collaborate more broadly! Programs of research conducted alongside collaborators include: 

  • Studies to examine how individuals weigh proximal and distal physical activity outcomes. What happens when we try to prompt people to think about short-term outcomes that can be achieved during a single exercise bout, like how they will feel, how many calories they will burn, or who they will see?  

  • Studies focused on the experiences of individuals with physical disabilities to describe and assess the quality of participation in physical activity, rehabilitation, and the workplace. 

  • Dr. Evans also has an interest in systematic and scoping review methods. He co-developed a graduate-level course in systematic review methods and contributes to systematic reviews related to several topics. 

MEMBERS

I began my role as Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology after gaining experience as an Assistant Professor at Penn State University (Kinesiology) and as a postdoctoral fellow at Queen’s University. My academic pathway includes experiences at Laurentian University (B.A.), the University of Lethbridge (M.A.), and Wilfrid Laurier University (PhD). With training focused on social influences in physical activity contexts, my passion for applying psychological principles into real-life settings has led me to explore all sorts of interesting group environments. You can learn more by checking out my faculty page, or other online profiles: 

DR. BLAIR EVANS

LAB ALUMNI

MICHAEL PANZA

MSc, 2020

SCOTT GRAUPENSPERGER

PhD, 2019

Website

JOINING THE LAB

 

Are you an undergraduate student interested in joining the lab? Getting involved in a lab is the ideal way to foster connections with faculty/peers and crucial for gaining research experience. Research involvement can also be a lot of work and tends to be much more enjoyable when you find your ‘match’ in terms of advisor and topic. If you are interested in joining the lab through an independent study or volunteer role, please reach out to Dr. Evans (mevan3@uwo.ca) with a detailed email describing your interest, relevant lab or workplace experience, and your relevant coursework. 

RESEARCH IMPACT

 

Here are a few examples our research and collaborations:

  • Dr. Evans partnered with Strava – an online community related to fitness – to prepare a white paper that reflected on a massive online study to explore the reasons behind why people run. Click here for the report.

  • We partnered with Bryce Hastings at Les Mills international to study group fitness experiences, and this work was communicated through a sleek video: 

  • We collaborate with researchers from Queen’s University, the University of Toronto, and the University of British Columbia to examine Quality Participation for individuals with disabilities – particularly in physical activity settings. This research has been adapted into guide documents, infographics, and audit tools in several contexts. Click here for the full report.

  • Dr. Evans recently co-authored an undergraduate textbook with Dr. Mark Eys (Wilfrid Laurier University) and Dr. Alex Benson (Western University), explaining how group dynamics are applied to sport. Click here for more details.

Mission

Belonging to the interdependence & influence in groups lab involves contributing to an environment where we can work hard, collaborate, and enjoy our time with one another. Key actions within this mission involve: 

…Designing research that is innovative and rigorous, while also being satisfying for members   

…Conducting research that resonates with participants/partners 

…Developing supportive relationships with other lab members

…Asking questions, regardless of our ‘status’ (i.e., how long we have been conducting research)

…Continually refining our written/oral communication skillset, and contributing to the development of others’ capacity to communicate

…Have fun

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