Social Mood Conference  |  Socionomics Foundation

By Susan Walker | March 11, 2014

Author, crowd psychology expert and systems scientist to speak at 4th Annual Social Mood Conference

Dr. Thomas Brudermann’s 2010 book tackled the dynamics of crowd psychology that emerge in contexts where people are guided by the whims of the herd instead of facts, figures and purely rational choice. At the conference, he plans to discuss how we can bridge the micro-macro problem in social science by studying how the decisions and actions of individuals give rise to collective phenomena like financial manias, panics and social unrest.
SF: How did you become interested in socionomics?

Thomas Brudermann:
A defining moment took place in the peaceful, friendly city of Klagenfurt, Austria, where I was doing my Ph.D. In 2008, Klagenfurt was one of the host cities of the European Championship in football, one of the largest sports events in Europe. The preceding championship in neighboring Germany in June 2006 had been a great success. It was basically a big party with huge crowds of people from all over Europe celebrating together on the streets. Local politicians in Austria were very euphoric when they learned that they would be among the hosts for this big event because they expected more of the same in 2008. But by the time June 2008 arrived, things were very different. I remember walking through the middle of Klagenfurt on the evening before the championships, and I could not believe my eyes. The usually vivid city center had become a ghost town. Nobody was there other than police! People had deserted the city, and those who were still there stayed inside for fear of riots and unrest. I searched for an explanation of why the environment in 2008 was so different from that of 2006, and socionomics offered an answer.

SF: Would you describe some of your latest research?

Thomas Brudermann: I am currently working as an assistant professor at the Institute for Systems Sciences, Innovation and Sustainability Research at the University of Graz in Austria. I study decision making, human-environment interactions, collective dynamics and transition processes in society. One project that I’m working on now is an investigation into the decision-making processes of potential adopters of small-scale renewable energy resources in rural regions.
SF: What is it about social mood that you find most interesting, and how does your research tie into socionomics?

Thomas Brudermann:
My research focuses on how people make decisions. In particular, I am interested in how individual behaviors and interactions shape collective outcomes. These are questions whose answers can help shed light on some key socionomic insights. Socionomics offers alternative and inspiring ideas for research on collective dynamics, and it ties very well into my research.
SF: How has your educational background impacted your career path?

Thomas Brudermann:
I began by studying computer science at the University of Klagenfurt. But after I attended numerous lectures on economic psychology, I realized that dealing with human decisions actually is much more interesting than dealing with machines. I soon joined the economic psychology department as a research assistant, and I started a Ph.D. on crowd psychology after completing my computer science studies. This hybrid education later afforded me a number of interesting opportunities. I have had the chance to work with people from many different fields, including psychologists, artificial intelligence researchers, marketing and management scholars, environmental economists, ecologists, complex systems scientists and sustainability researchers.
SF: What do you plan to discuss in your speech at the Social Mood Conference?

Thomas Brudermann:
We know quite a lot about how individuals make decisions. And we can easily observe macro-level phenomena like booms in financial markets and fads in society. In my talk, I’d like to discuss the missing link between the two: the collective dynamics that tie the micro-level decisions of individuals to macro-level social outcomes.

SF: Does social mood play a role in your explanation?

Thomas Brudermann: Yes. From a complexity perspective, it looks like social mood is an emergent property in a very complex system. I believe that the collective mood we observe on a macro level arises from interactions and decisions on lower, individual levels. I also believe that the herding impulse and psychological contagion play a significant role in the formation of social mood.

SF: Why are you looking forward to talking about your research at the Social Mood Conference?

Thomas Brudermann: I have closely followed updates, videos and articles about the Summit since the inaugural event, but this is the first time that I will be able to be there in person. I am happy that I can be an active participant this year, and I am looking forward to face-to-face interaction with people in the field.
SF: Thank you, Dr. Brudermann, and we are excited to welcome you to Atlanta on April 5th for the 4th Annual Social Mood Conference.

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