The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has awarded Syracuse University School of Information Studies (iSchool) Associate Dean for Research and Doctoral Programs Jeffrey Stanton a $20,000 grant over seven months to study conflict and interactions within teams during spaceflight.

Stanton’s research will focus on the psychological and physical effects of conflict on team members and their performance in order to possibly create a model that could prevent conflict during spaceflight.

“The task is to look at whether it is possible to develop a predictive system that will anticipate problems on a team,” Stanton said. “If you’ve ever had a big fight with your mom and could wind back the tape to find what led up to it, it could be possible to anticipate the conflict. But in a fight with your mom, you don’t have mission control to say ‘Hey, you’re under stress.’”

This research is especially important now, Stanton said, with U.S. President Barack Obama increasing NASA’s budget by $6 million to bring a man to Mars. Astronauts sent to the Red Planet would spend 18 months to three years in a contained space with each other, working together. In such a setting, it would be important to pre-empt and avoid the stressors that cause major conflicts.

“I don’t even know if it’s possible,” Stanton said. “But it’s important to ask these questions.”

Stanton is currently working with iSchool doctoral student Veronica Maidel on researching how available technologies could be adapted to monitor astronaut behavior and physical stresses. They may study such behavioral indicators as tone of voice, body language, or facial expressions, but they will also look to monitor physical changes in blood flow and electrical resistance of the astronauts’ skin. The two will travel to Houston in August to meet with the NASA research teams and report on their findings.

Stanton holds a Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut. His research focuses organizational behavior and technology, and he has published more than 60 scholarly articles in top peer-reviewed behavioral science journals, such as the Journal of Applied Psychology, Personnel Psychology, and Human Performance.