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ERC

BLINDSPOT Report Summary

Project ID: 695256
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - BLINDSPOT (Diversity and Performance: Networks of Cognition in Markets and Teams)

Reporting period: 2016-09-01 to 2018-02-28

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Project Summary:

Contemporary organizations face three interrelated, but analytically distinguishable, challenges. First, they should be alert to mistakes that could be catastrophic. Second, they need to allocate attention, especially to correct past mistakes and to make accurate predictions about future developments. Third, they should be innovative, able to stand out from existing categories while being recognized as outstanding. This project investigates these cognitive challenges with the aim of developing a comprehensive sociological approach to study the social properties of cognition. Research on error detection, attention allocation, and recognizant innovation will be conducted in three distinct settings strategically chosen so the scale and complexity of the performance challenges increases across the cases.

Project Goals:

The research question that cuts across the socio-cognitive challenges asks whether and how diversity contributes to performance. The nature of the research question requires an interdisciplinary approach. The project has three sub goals, each addressed using different research designs:

1) We first test how the social context, understood at the most basic level as the composition of a small collectivity, affects behaviour. To do so, we use experimental methods to test how ethnic diversity affects decision-making.

2) The second study tests how the social structure of attention affects valuation. The activities involve error correction and accuracy of prediction in estimates by securities analysts; the method is two-mode network analysis; and the timing, intensity, and diversity of attention networks are the effects to be tested.

3) The third study examines relations within and across collaborative teams. In studying the network properties of creativity, the challenge is recognizant innovation, the activity involves releases in the field of music, the method is cultural network analysis, and the effects to be tested are the combined effects of stylistic diversity and social structure.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

In the first 18 months of the project our team 7 articles accepted for publication in leading scholarly journals and 1 chapter in an edited volume. In addition, to papers published or in press, 4 major papers are currently under review, 10 Working Papers have been written, and we have presented our findings in more than 18 different academic conference venues.

Stark supervised all aspects of the project, hired postdoctoral fellows and other staff, worked with other senior staff and postdoctoral fellows to design research and analyze data, drafted and published scholarly articles, presented findings at various academic conferences, organized two workshops that will be held later in 2018. More particularly: He was involved directly in data analysis with Professor Prato in Lugano on attention networks. Together they wrote two scholarly papers currently under review at the leading journals of the discipline of sociology (The American Journal of Sociology and The American Sociological Review). With Professor Levine and Postdoctoral Fellow Charlotte Reypens in the Warwick unit, he worked on experimental research design and analyzed data from preliminary experiments. With Professor Ferriani at the University of Bologna and Professor Santoni at the Cass Business School he has developed a theoretical model of online cultural markets which they are testing with a database from the SoundCloud music-sharing platform. With Giovanni Formilan he is conducting research the performance of artistic identities among musicians.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

For the laboratory experimental part of this project we hired an excellent postdoctoral fellow to probe the mechanisms that stood behind our initial findings on the impact of diversity. We designed several experimental tasks to isolate factors that might explain herding (in ethnic/gender diverse/homogenous settings) such as trust, overconfidence, animosity, familiarity and so on. We have several promising leads. Our findings, however, are still preliminary, mostly due to sample size because of the difficulties of recruiting people of specific ethnicities. Unfortunately, interactions between black and white participants could not be tested in the lab at the University of Warwick where the population of students is predominantly white and Asian. At Columbia University we confronted the same difficulties but were able to collect data on gender, leading to new hypotheses that we are currently testing on an online platform.

The hiring of a postdoc for the attention networks component has been postponed because the identified outstanding candidate (who met all criteria required by the position) got an offer as assistant professor in a prestigious US University and another post-doc with similar skills has not been found. Our research has, nonetheless, been making excellent strides. Stark and Prato have written two major papers one with a Revise and Resubmit at The American Journal of Sociology, another under review at the American Sociological Review (widely recognized as the two leading international journals in the discipline).

As the second postdoc for this ERC project we elected to hire an outstanding new PhD for the creative fields component. Senior researcher Simone Santoni in London has secured an official research affiliation status for the project at SoundCloud, the leading online music-sharing platform. Through this arrangement we have created an extraordinary database encompassing a 10% sample of an entire month of SoundCloud data. Analysis of that data is now underway and we anticipate some high visibility publications.
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