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Building better teams through psychology

Alan Flurry

Dorothy Carter spends her days developing strategies that can help astronauts prepare for missions to Mars, assist military leaders in maximizing their troops’ performance, and coach corporate leaders to optimize organizational plans.

It’s not what she thought she would be doing in the early 2000s when she was a professional dancer for a ballet company in Ohio.

But, her long-range future was limited, she realized then.

“There was no real long-term career path, so I thought I should probably go to college,” said Carter, assistant professor of psychology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

Now an industrial-organizational psychologist, Carter directs UGA’s Leadership, Innovation, Networks and Collaboration Laboratory, which seeks to uncover factors that enable groups to tackle complex challenges.

“Industrial-organizational psychology is the application of the psychological principles and understanding of humans in the workplace,” Carter said.

Her research on team dynamics and leadership earned her UGA’s 2020 Charles B. Knapp Early Career Scholar Award in recognition of her potential impact in the social and behavioral sciences. She currently has research grants from NASA, the U.S. Army Research Institute, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

“My research is focused on leadership and team collaboration on a large scale. We investigate what makes multiple groups work together effectively as part of large interdependent systems,” Carter said. “A lot of our greatest challenges as a society require that kind of large-scale collaboration, but it often goes against what we are naturally built to do as humans. We tend to form our clubs and stick with them and don’t really collaborate across boundaries. My research focuses on that basic idea of leadership and large-scale collaboration across different contexts.”


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