Nov. 15, 2017
For Immediate Release
Waterloo – How can we improve refugee resettlement? How old is the oldest sign language? How globally disruptive is ridesharing? These are some of the questions researchers at Wilfrid Laurier University are exploring, and for which they have received over $2.2 million in funding through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) 2017 Insight Development and Insight Grant programs.
“This funding speaks to the high calibre of meaningful research happening in the social sciences and humanities at Laurier,” said Robert Gordon, vice-president: research and acting provost. “We are very proud of the innovative and high-quality work our researchers are undertaking. This funding will provide the resources necessary to support impactful research experiences for our undergraduate and graduate students.”
One of the funded projects will study conversations and how they impact client care industries.
Grant Packard, assistant professor in the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics at Laurier and principal investigator on the project, hopes his research will be used by service-oriented professionals in retail, healthcare, and even by artificial intelligence (AI) developers.
“One of the challenges of the AI industry is that it is dissatisfying to talk to robots,” said Packard. “What we’re looking at is the significance of what, how and when meaning is shared over the sequence of turns in a conversation, considering whether subtle variations in these factors impacts how people feel and what they do after the conversation.”
Packard will be one of the first to examine language-related dynamics in the context of “helping” conversations. His research will analyze the semantic (words) and phonetic (sound) elements of customer service phone conversations from a fashion retailer and an airline. He will determine how cadence, pitch, volume, laughter, pauses and other elements contribute to the social reception of a conversation.
“We’ve started to learn about the impact of certain words in service conversations, but not the time and sound-based elements of conversation,” said Packard. “For example, people strategically vary the volume of their voice throughout conversations and have different strategies to move through the stages of a conversation.These factors can impact how someone responds to the speaker.”
All funded Laurier research projects include:
The federal Insight Development Grants and Insight Grants programs are designed to build knowledge and understanding from disciplinary, interdisciplinary and/or cross-sector perspectives through support for the best researchers in the area of social science and humanities research. Insight Development Grants fund innovative new approaches to research in its early stages, provide high-quality research experiences for students and mobilize research knowledge for economic and social impact. The funding will support research and student training for up to two years. Insight Grants support research excellence in the social sciences and humanities and support longer-term research programs. The funding will support research and student training for up to five years.
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