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Measurements are finished! December 2, 2010

Posted by salla in Project news.
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We are happy to inform that all the measurements for the experiments are just finished last week! In total we recorded 59 participants for the experiment 1 (focusing on company names and overall reputation) and 40 subjects for the experiment 2 (focusing on news concerning the companies).

It was a about four months long job to run the recordings, which were mainly carried out by Alessio Falco at CKIR lab. Our aim was to recruit business students in order to ensure they would be familiar with most of the publicly listed companies.

“Collecting participants during the summer was challenging! However, the recruitment process got easier once we decided to expand the recruiting to several universities instead of only one” says Alessio.

Once at the lab, all the participants showed curiosity and willingness to cooperate. Many of them were also interested on the project and its goals and hypothesis – and also on getting their own EEG on paper, which we unfortunately didn’t deliver. Nevertheless, the length and repetitiveness of the two experiments occasionally caused a loss of interest. To prevent this from altering the results, the order of all news and all companies was randomized throughout the experiments.

“According to the comments straight after the experiment a favorite piece of news seemed to be a story about a ferry company selling overfermented wine.” Alessio remarks, waiting to see the actual measurements on that.

Some of the 20 companies used in the experiments might have to be removed from the final results if they were not known widely enough within the participants. We can assume that the ratings regarding these companies are not reliable.

The next – potentially even bigger – task is to analyze the results. We have about 2 000 lines of data on each subject, so it will take some time and some serious calculating. The EEG data have to be combined with other psychophysiological measures and ratings. By now, we have taken a look at some preliminary test results already, but the final analysis will be finished around February 2011.

Giving some demos August 23, 2010

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The official kick off for the DiRe autumn was the board meeting last Friday. As a project funded by Tekes we have a nominated board of business representatives supervising the project. This time we were pleased to give them a demo on the measurements we are running.

Our researcher Alessio got the honor to try the equipment he is usually placing on others. In the photo below you can see Mikko and Pentti from CKIR explaning what the graph is showing (and the rest of us were busy making some ad hoc stimuli to see the reactions live).

Dire meeting

[click here to see the pic bigger]

In other good news it seems that according to the preliminary analysis we will gather some very interesting results from the experiments! Before running the final analysis we will need a few subjects more, and we expect to have the final-final results by the end of the year. It’s probably needless to mention we are getting very excited!

The other psychophysiological signals April 28, 2010

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Besides the already covered EEG we are also planning to record some other psychophysiological signals when studying digital reputation in different experimental settings. We plan to use at least electrodermal activation (EDA), facial electromyography (EMG), and electrocardiography (ECG).  The dimensional theory of emotion places emotions in a two dimensional space defined by valence (unpleasant – pleasant) and arousal (calm – excited). Valence can be effectively studied with the facial EMG. The cheek muscle and the periocular muscle are usually activated during positive emotions, like during smiling. The frowning muscle is, of course, related to negative emotions. For the measurement of arousal, EDA, in practice sweating of the hands, is a useful index. The interpretation of these signals is somewhat straightforward, at least when compared to heart rate, or ECG more generally. The problem is that the activity of the heart is regulated by many processes; the ECG has been used to study stress, arousal, valence, attention, and orientation reflex, for example. So it is good to have other signals to accompany in the interpretation.

There are various other signals that could be also recorded, like breathing rate, movement of the subject by accelerometers or tracking the gaze or changes in the pupils. However, there are limits to how much wires we can attach to the subjects. On the other hand, having more than just one or two signals collected is not advisable either. The interpretation is almost always easier when there are more psychophysiological signals to look at. Since we are applying the psychophysiological method to a new area, the study of digital reputation, we cannot know beforehand which signals would be the most useful. After the first experiments we have at least some guidelines for selecting the best signals for further studies of digital reputation.

Reputation and EEG Brain Research: A Sociological Reflection on What We Are Doing April 22, 2010

Posted by Antti Ainamo in Blogroll.
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Being a sociologist, I find brain research fascinating because it is much about what sociology is not about. With this mind, let me reflect on Mikko’s (Mikko Salminen’s) post, written on March  18, and shown below i n this blog.

In conducting laboratory experiments using the psychophysiological methods, Mikko writes that we (mostly Niklas, Mikko and Kaisa at CKIR/Aalto) use methods such as electroencephalography, or EEG for short. Other methods would exist such as MEG, PET, and fMRI, for example. (Incidentally, the University of Turku, which Matti and I represent in the DiRe project is the strongholds of PET research in Finland).

Research is always very much about two kinds of choices: (a) what to do and (b) what NOT to do.

The strength of EEG is its applicability to more ecologically valid settings. Mobile, light-weight, recording systems allow data collection in what as closely as possible resemble real life situations. Of course, in the real world, we are not always wired, as we are in the CKIR laboratory. Then, again, often, in what we call the real world, with our mobile phones, iPhones, etc., we in fact are wired anytime, anywhere. So, what may at first resemble a large difference in comparison to the “real world” may not in the ultimately be such a difference after all. So, Part II, we clearly are on to something in our research.

In the DiRe project, our interests focus on those responses of the individuals in our laboratory that tell something about their (and, by extension, our) emotions and motivational processes; in Dire, we aim to study which psychophysiologically observed emotional responses are related to good reputation, bad reputation, both, or neither of the above. For example – and importantly from the perspective of sociological analysis – our EEG research focuses on to what extent an individual will “avoid” or to “approach” a representation of a business firm and its reputation.

At this phase of our research, we will not be able to study “coercion” as it is called in sociology or what is, as far as I know, called “punishment” in brain research. To spell this out: in addition to social norms about what actions and thoughts are to be avoided and which models we deem worth of individual and social aspirations, there is also a third interest in addition to “avoid” and “approach”. So, in sociology, this is called “coercion”, shorthand for violence or the threat thereof. What would this research interest be called in brain research terms? Ok ok “punishment”, but that does not well with “avoidance” and “approach”. How about  “attack”? Or, “aggressiveness”? Or, “anxiety and/or fear”? or Or, “appreciation of a circumstance where we freed from anxiety and fear”?

I do now know, at this stage of our inquiry. What I do already know is that this research interest is worthy of more than passing interest. As the sociologist James G. March has shown, much of what goes in business schools is application of sociology. And, what businesses do is apply what their top managers have learned in business schools.

To make an intermediate summary: Sociological ideas are at the source of many business cases. Ok ok, we will not be studying everything at once. It has been established not only in the first part of this post that this is a bad idea; it has also been established through hundreds of years of serious inquiry in philosophy of science. The mark of good research is not to try to study all at once. To study everything in one go is a recipe for a bad study. In academia, doing such research may lead to a reputation for NOT being a good researcher. “Nobody is perfect, but I” , I used to say when I was learning English and that is when — rightly so — I got a reputation for someone who is just learning English.

Nonetheless, the goal in the next stage of our Digital Reputation research ought to be to seriously consider the business case in the case of reputation management and design ways by which we can take more of business realities and, by extension, sociological insights that often are behind those realities. The big fish is worth the pursuit, even though we may never catch it. Even if, following the line of thought of Ernest Hemingway, we need not appropriate every piece of knowledge we gain, knowledge will help keep us on the right track and track what is worthy of pursuit. Ditto for reputation, its reputation, and the study of these “social facts” and the associated psychophysiological signals.