Teams, rather than individuals, are now the usual generators of scientific knowledge. How to optimize team interactions is a passionately pursued topic across several disciplines. This research hypothesizes that linguistic entrainment, or the convergence of linguistic properties of spoken conversation, may serve as a valid and relatively easy-to-collect measure that is predictive of team success. From the perspective of developing interventions for team innovation, organizations could unobtrusively measure team effectiveness using entrainment, and intervene with training to aid teams with low entrainment. Similar interventions would be useful for conversational agents that monitor and facilitate group interactions. The work could also support the development of browsers or data mining applications for corpora such as team meetings or classroom discussions.
To date, most studies of entrainment have focused on conversational dyads rather than the multi-party conversations typical of teams. The technical objective of this research is to develop, validate and evaluate new measures of linguistic entrainment tailored to multi-party conversations. In particular, the first research goal is to develop multi-party entrainment measures that are computable using language technologies, and that are both motivated and validated by the literature on teams. The second goal is to demonstrate the utility of these measures in being associated with team processes and predicting team success. The supporting activities include 1) collection of an experimentally-obtained corpus where teams collaborate on a task where they converse, and where a team process intervention manipulates likely entrainment, 2) development of a set of entrainment measures for multi-party dialogue, 3) use of standard psychological teamwork measures for convergent validity and random conversations for divergent validity, 4) exploration of how the team factors of gender composition and participation equality impact group entrainment, and 5) evaluation of the utility of measuring entrainment for predicting team and dialogue success.