Michael R. Baumann received his PhD from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His graduate education combined Social and I/O psychology with a heavy dose of statistics and research methods. Upon completing his dissertation and short visiting position at Washington State University, Dr. Baumann joined the faculty at the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2001.
Dr. Baumannís initial interest in psychology was performance under stress, particularly performance in extreme environments (e.g., firefighters, combat personnel, etc.). Although Dr. Baumann had some success in this area and still conducts projects on this theme, during his time at Illinois Dr. Baumann became interested in the influence of affective states on decision making and behavior more generally and also developed an interest in group processes and group decision making. The former was due in part to learning of the work of Gerald Clore, Herbert Bless, and Galen Bodehausen on the impact of affective states on cognitive strategies. For example, the (now well known) finding that people rely upon heuristics more when happy than when sad. This and other processing differences have potentially wide ranging implications for behavior in extreme (firefighting, combat) and less extreme (workplace) environments, including how people evaluate risks, who decides to go "
above and beyond", and who malingers or sabotages the organization. Dr. Baumann is currently conducting a project examining how affective influences scale up to impact group decision making processes, and has several data sets under analysis examining the role of affect on employee turnover
Dr. Baumannís work on groups primarily involves information processing. For example, how and when groups recognize and make use of the knowledge, skills, or abilities of their members ("expertise") and how this in turn influences group performance. Dr. Baumann also examines situations in which expertise is divided across members and must be combined in order for the group to optimize performance (e.g., Transactive Memory Systems). Although it stands to reason that groups that make more efficient use of member expertise should perform better than those that make less efficient use of member expertise, research shows that groups are often unable to recognize differences in member expertise. As such, groups often fail to reap the full benefit of the expertise of their members. Dr. Baumann and his collaborators have several publications on this theme in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, the European Journal of Social Psychology,
and Group Dynamics. Recently, Dr. Baumann has come to think of influence within groups in terms of what Sherif would have called informational social influence. From this perspective, various social heuristics should play a role in information processing within groups. This in turn has led Dr. Baumann to consider impression formation issues both within and outside of groups settings. For example, what does an "expert" look like, how does appearance influence trust, and how does perceptions of others emotional states influence our behavior towards them. Although Dr. Baumann has only recently become interested in such issues, projects examining each are underway.