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Gather: Technology, decision-making and risk

Understanding the connection between new technology and risk-taking behaviour
The Gather research team is working toward defining and understanding technology-based risk-taking behaviour and decision-making to minimise harm and enhance well-being

The Gather team works across disciplines and engages with stakeholders to contribute to a greater conceptual understanding of how and why people make decisions about technology use that lead to risks and potential harms. This includes examining Internet-based behavioural addictions (e.g., online gambling and gaming), harmful use of social media and smartphones, online crime and anti-social behaviours, and the roles of various stakeholders to intervene, protect, and minimise harms.

Our research objectives

Our team’s research objectives are:

  1. To define and understand risk-taking behaviour and decision-making related to emerging technologies conceptually and the issues around it, particularly pertaining to mental health, well-being, and economic outcomes;
  2. To apply this understanding to guide policy and strategies that minimise problematic risk-taking behaviours and promote healthy decision-making; and
  3. To contribute to and drive public discourse in this area.

Our team, led by Associate Professor Sally Gainsbury, Professor Alex Blaszczynski, Professor Vladan Starcevic, Associate Professor Agnieszka Tymula, Associate Professor Nicola Newton, Associate Professor Garner Clancey and Dr Sascha Callaghan, represents a true multidisciplinary collaborative effort to lead this research with representation from Psychology, Medicine and Law. We are always looking for opportunities to collaborate with other researchers and potential industry partners to work toward our common goal. Please get in touch if you’re interested in working with us.

What’s the link between technology and risk-taking behaviour?

Many risk-taking behaviours now involve technologies, including Internet-mediated communication methods and devices. These are broad-ranging and come at significant social and economic cost to communities including online gambling, gaming, aggression, cyber-bullying, sexual behaviours, impulsive behaviours, risky self-disclosure, crime and antisocial behaviours. People are increasingly reporting excessive and harmful use of technologies including social media and smartphones that are significantly impacting their physical and mental health and daily functioning. These behaviours and technologies are constantly evolving, meaning that ongoing research is necessary.

Risky behaviours associated with emerging technologies are increasing across the population, with particular concerns regarding youth, and have been associated with negative mental health outcomes. We therefore place special focus on youth and young adults and lifespan differences in behaviour using emerging technologies. 

Our collaborative approach

Our multi-disciplinary collaboration draws together perspectives from clinical psychology, public health, ethics, economics, social sciences (e.g., media and technology), law, neuroscience, psychiatry and beyond for a comprehensive understanding at both the conceptual and applied levels of problematic risk-taking behaviours and decision-making involving emerging technologies. On the conceptual level, we aim to define problematic risk-taking involving emerging technologies in terms of its social determinants, associated harms, and outcomes.

Gaining a clearer and more comprehensive understanding of the psychological and neural bases underlying the way individuals make decisions involving emerging technologies will allow us to develop a more robust theory of problematic risk-taking behaviour involving such technologies. We will apply this understanding to develop frameworks that promote better decision-making. We will provide harm-minimising insights for policy, inform guidelines for treatment interventions, and drive discourse in the public arena as technologies change over time.

This group has extensive international collaborative relationships and we look forward to engaging with new colleagues including supporting visiting internationally fellows from various career levels and new and visiting PhD students.