To Combine Experiment With Intervention And Field Studies
Peter Schmidt, Professor of sociology at the University of Giessen and a renowned expert in social psychology, who has become one of the heads of the HSE International Laboratory for Socio-Cultural Studies, told us about the plans and key research topics of the laboratory.
— Professor Schmidt, when and how did you start working with the Higher School of Economics?
— I was introduced to my Russian colleagues by Shalom Schwartz, Professor of Psychology at the University of Jerusalem, who is now Academic Supervisor of the HSE International Laboratory for Socio-Cultural Studies. We have been collaborating for a long time on the development of tools for the measurement of human values and have carried out joint research related to the influence of these values on human behavior and relationships. So, my contacts with Nadezhda Lebedeva, the Laboratory Head, at first were not direct, but in October last year we met in person and now jointly head the laboratory.
— In your view, what are the key tasks of the new department?
— The staff of the laboratory is involved in the systematic study of the role of cultural values in socio-economic behavior and production of innovations. The economic success of modern society depends on the level of its modernization, and hence it is necessary to understand why some people seek to invent something new, while others don’t, and what are the motivations of both the former and the latter. In our work we try to combine methods which are rarely used together – laboratory experiments, field studies and so-called intervention studies. To understand whether our conclusions and ideas are correct, it is important not to lock ourselves away within the walls of the laboratory, but to analyze the research results in practice. We shall work in collaboration with various organizations and institutions, which seek to develop and implement innovations and are ready to apply our knowledge and methods in their teams. It is similar to the situation in medicine – to fight diseases, not only tested methods are used, but also a permanent search for more effective means of treatment – and just like this, we are guided by the necessity to constantly search for some new methods of analysing human behavior and its motivations.
— In this case, what is the difference between experimental methods and the intervention method?
— An experiment is carried out under laboratory conditions, and usually students or volunteers take part in it. The conditions of an experiment are created artificially, and usually they are far removed from real situations taking place in society. That’s why the knowledge which is received as a result of a laboratory experiment cannot be fully or directly transferred to real situations. I shall give another example from medicine: not all the results of research are implemented in medical practice. Intervention methods let us trial our developments in real life conditions of a real team, and allow us to take into account all the circumstances of everyday processes.
— Can you tell us something about the presentation you made on innovations in cross-cultural studies at theXII International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development?
— Yes, my presentation was dedicated to the key methods of synthesis and integration of new knowledge and discoveries in modern science. I told the conference participants about meta-analysis – a technique which is often used in medical psychology and which summarizes and analyzes quantitative indicators from various studies and helps to reveal the real effect from the combination and interaction of all known factors and assists in eliminating the uncertainty of research conclusions. The creative efforts of people in any innovative process are decreased when there are doubts and uncertainties in the team, and hence it is very important to develop a mechanism of overcoming uncertainty and/or a mechanism of selecting people who are able to overcome their own doubts.
— Can we clarify exactly about what innovations are we talking about? In what field?
— In principle, it doesn’t matter. We are interested in the process of innovations in any area of human activity – in telecommunications, social life, the creation of new organizational forms, computer technologies or technical developments. The modernization mechanisms in any area are very similar, and our laboratory aims to reveal general principles and knowledge which can be used by society as a whole, including the field of education.
— What can you tell us about the laboratory staff?
— The staff of the laboratory are very well prepared for international research work. My Russian colleagues are highly qualified and experienced in the study of cultural values, economic behavior and innovative processes in Russia. In addition to that, Nadezhda Lebedeva is a perfect organizer. Shalom Schwartz, Academic Supervisor of the laboratory, is a brilliant expert in the values theory. I have also for many years been involved in the studies of values and rational choice in behavior studies. In addition to that, I have experience of building complex models of behavior considering various influences – conditional and independent – and the experience of preparation and implementation of research based on interventions. This means that we perfectly complement each other as experts and are ready to solve tasks of any level of difficulty. We shall also attract master’s and postgraduate students to work in the laboratory, and we’re looking not only for psychologists and sociologists, but also economists.
As far as I see, in recent years in the world there has been a clear trend towards convergence and joint interdisciplinary studies between behavioral psychologists, managers and economists who are united not only by their interest in solving similar professional tasks, but also by the use of similar explanatory models in the study of certain processes.
— What are the laboratory’s immediate plans?
— First of all, we would like to develop a complex model of interrelation between the values and innovative processes based on the data which has already been collected, and study the changes of Russian values (including regional) compared with the European ones over the last 7 or 8 years. As far as I understand, some Russian researchers from different regions have expressed their interest and willingness to participate in our projects and supply the field study data necessary for our research.
In addition to research work, in June I am planning to participate in the work of the HSE Summer School on ‘Values and Socio-Economic Behavior: Cross-Cultural Measurements and Explanatory Models’, and in October I am planning to read a lecture course on structural modeling and multivariant analysis for students of the HSE Faculty of Psychology.
I am planning to come to Moscow at least five times a year, and for the rest of the time to be in contact with the laboratory staff by all available means – e-mail, phone and Skype. I think that we will be able to prepare a number of joint presentations on our projects for some large international conferences.
Valentina Gruzintseva, HSE News Service
Photo by Nikita Benzoruk
'We Wanted to Create an Opportunity for Intercampus Teams to Engage in Promising Studies'
HSE University has announced the winners of the Project Competition in Basic Science Research for Intercampus Departments. The competition, which the university is organising for the first time, will provide funding to 10 research teams working on five topics. Four of the winning projects will be implemented by new research departments formed as a result of the competition.
Research Reveals RNA's Role in Cancer Progression
An international group of scientists and medical specialists, including HSE researchers, examined the role played by microRNA (miRNA) and long non-coding RNAs on the progression of ovarian cancer. Having analysed more than a hundred tumour samples, they found that miRNA can prevent cell mutation while long non-coding RNAs have the opposite effect of enabling such mutations. These findings can help design new drugs which act by regulating miRNA concentrations. The study was published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.
‘We Managed to Bring Together Specialists in AI, Pure Mathematics, and Neurobiology’
In early September, the HSE University Faculty of Computer Science hosted the international conference Computer Methods of Cognitome Analysis. The event was organised by the International Laboratory of Algebraic Topology and Its Applications at the faculty.
Russian Researchers Propose New Approach to Studying Facial Emotion Recognition
Researchers of the HSE University and the Southern Federal University (SFedU) have tested a new method for studying the perception of facial emotional expressions. They suggest that asking subjects to recognise emotional expressions from dynamic video clips rather than static photographs can improve the accuracy of findings, eg in psychiatric and neurological studies. The paper is published in Applied Sciences.
Academics Started Working Even More During the Pandemic
Academics’ work week became even longer during the pandemic. This is true of researchers from different countries, independently of their gender and specialisation, an international research team with HSE University participation found. Their working time during the pandemic was 51 hours compared to the usual 40. The increased number of working hours per week seems to have become part of the new academic norm. The results of the study were published in the Plos One journal.
HSE Researchers Develop New Method for Analysing Genetic Admixture of Populations
Researchers of the HSE International Laboratory of Statistical and Computational Genomics together with their international colleagues have proposed a new statistical method for analysing population admixture that makes it possible to determine the time and number of migration waves more accurately. The history of Colombians and Mexicans (descendants of Native Americans, Spaniards and Africans) features two episodes of admixture that occurred about 350 and 200 years ago for Mexicans and 400 and 100 years ago for Colombians. The results were published in the Plos Genetics journal.
Scholars from Moscow and Vladivostok Join Efforts to Study Institutes and Preferences in Economic Behaviour
Applications from HSE departments for the ‘Mirror Laboratories’ open project competition are open until May 20. One of the ‘mirror laboratories’ successfully operating today was created as a result of a similar competition in 2020 by economists from HSE University and Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU) to study institutes and preferences in economic behaviour. Alexis Belianin, Head of the HSE International Laboratory for Experimental and Behavioural Economics, talked about how peers from Moscow and Vladivostok collaborate.
Stress Disorders More Prevalent among Doctors due to the Pandemic
Psychologists from HSE University have joined their peers from Ekaterinburg to look into the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of Russian doctors. They found that medical staff are suffering from stress, anxiety, and depression more often than before. The results of the study were published in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
International Laboratory of Landscape Ecology Opens at HSE University
The laboratory will be led by Robert Sandlersky, a specialist in energy and mass transfer and the study of other properties of landscapes via satellite imagery and Senior Research Fellow at the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The HSE News Service spoke to Robert about the laboratory’s future activities.
New International Laboratory to Study Lighting Flashes and Volcanic Lightning
HSE University has launched a new International Laboratory for the Study and Assessment of Dangerous Geophysical Phenomena. Alexander Kostinskiy, Head of the Laboratory and Deputy Director of HSE MIEM, explains the laboratory’s future work, its important research and practical applications, and the role of international cooperation in the new laboratory.