Primer (Introduction)

To provide a quick introduction and basic overview of each of the three volumes that constitute this handbook, we utilize a primer. The primer contains our concept for each book and then gives short summaries of the chapters within the book. This provides a handy way to get a sense of what each book will contain in terms of topics, together with the focus and authors of each chapter.

For volume 1, Foundations and Theoretical Perspectives of Distributed Team Cognition, the purpose is to begin the handbook with foundational knowledge that is relevant to understanding distributed team cognition. Inherently, this encompasses history, theoretical viewpoints that present multiple perspectives, basic research knowledge and findings, and unique ideas or philosophies that underlie the development of distributed team cognition. Volume 1 presents a lot of background information, definitional reviews, and historical threads, with an intent towards conceptualization of what we mean by distributed team cognition and how differing approaches toward it can allow the reader new ways to think about it. In this sense it is intended to generate the new out of the old and afford integrative bridges across time. By doing that the reader can experience what led to the development of this handbook and the focus of the topics within while at the same time be shown where it is headed into the future. Volumes 2 and 3 then help to color in more specifics on current research topics and applications.

As the first editor of the handbook, McNeese devotes Chapter 1 to the specifics underlying the development or emergence of distributed team cognition as the composite integral of distributed cognition and team cognition, and lays down the beginning girders upon which the formative structure of the handbook is supported. He utilizes his own autobiographical history and longitudinal development in design, cognition, and collaborative technologies to illustrate how one specific type of multiple perspective is formulated. Many of the basics that underlie topics throughout the book are addressed in this first chapter.

The second and third chapters by McNeese, McNeese, Delise, Rentsch, and Brown are heavily steeped in the history and traditions of both team cognition and distributed cognition through the lens and practice of team simulations. Chapter 2 focuses on team simulation and the first authors experiences at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base wherein teams, technologies, and context emerged as a distinct research entity, and where much of the early history of this area was conducted. Chapter 3 provides a cogent overview of distributed team cognition as a research focus within team simulation and gives examples of real-world simulation while and surveying major research variables studied. Chapter 3 also outlines a research framework that can be used for interdisciplinary study of distributed team cognition.

The fourth chapter by Tindale, Winget, and Hinsz provides a deep dive into understanding what teamwork means from the perspective of team information processing, highlighting how different tasks and the amount of tasks engaged in influence team performance. This chapter is very useful in that it touches on a lot of the concepts inherent in distributed team cognition and the patterns underlying the relationships among motivation, task demands, shared knowledge, coordination, and specific judgments in decision making or problem solving.

The fifth chapter by Palermos is unique in that it entwines the philosophy of mind, the group mind, functionalism, and extended cognition and posits alternative ideas to distributed cognition for healthy counterpoints. An example utilizes the bee colony as a point of reference for how they make decisions on finding their next nest. One of the qualities of the handbook this chapter exemplifies is presenting alternative viewpoints that signify worldviews one can utilize when thinking about distributed team cognition.

The sixth chapter by Nosek is one of the viewpoints represented in the handbook that slants towards ecological interpretations of group activity and highlights Collaborative Action Theory in the social construction of knowledge. The chapter applies this theory and highlights the use of affordances as related to user experience, design, and information overload hence again providing alternative suggestions to a strict cognitive paradigm.

The seventh chapter by Marhefka, Mohammed, Hamilton, Tesler, Mancuso, and McNeese returns to a more cognitive-based philosophy and looks at the impacts of perceiving and sharing team mental models within an interrelated team task (the NeoCITIES simulation) wherein temporality could be examined and assessed. The chapter provides a compelling example of distributed team cognition experimentation from hypothesis formation to setting up a team experiment using a simulation to measurement to data analysis. Temporality is very important for understanding distributed team cognition and this highlights findings in the chapter.

The eighth chapter by Reep provides yet another facet of teamwork and distributed cognition, the role of expertise. The chapter looks at how expertise develops from novices to experts and what this means for knowledge organization, pattern recognition, reasoning, and other abilities that come into play when a team needs to integrate individuals with varying capabilities and experiences. A future research agenda is provided to enhance continued study in this area as related to distributed team cognition.

The ninth chapter by Endsley, Macht, Engome Tchupo, Hammet, and Brownson continues with the thought that teams consist of individuals that have to integrate their backgrounds, knowledge, skills, abilities, and cultural differences in an effective way to address the complexity of work. This is often not easy and can challenge a team to complete tasks so this is an important foundational aspect of how cognition is distributed and shared. Research involving diversity in teamwork revolves around a focus on race, ethnicity, culture, cognitive styles, and personality. The chapter looks at how these variables can influence and determine the outcome of a team’s performance.

This concludes the primer for Volume 1. Many of the principles and ways of construing distributed team performance are articulated in this first book hopefully evoking inquisitive thinking while at the same time generating learning about what this handbook intends to communicate.

Michael D. McNeese

Distributed Team


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