About the Lab

Work in the Human Nature Lab lies at the intersection of the social, biological, and computational sciences. We develop and apply novel insights about aspects of human nature that relate to our interactions with others. Our focus is not so much on how humans think or behave while alone, but rather on how they think and behave while in groups.  We explore the classic problem of collective action, and we seek to understand how and why it is that, in the case of groups of people, the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts, for better or worse.

We also attempt to invent new ways to intervene in social systems to make them better, to improve our health, wealth, and civic life.  Our approaches involve everything from the creation of artificial tipping points in human populations to the insertion of artificial intelligence agents into online groups.

Our research often involves new datasets, new methods, and new ideas. A major focus of our work has been to create and expand a fundamental understanding of how human social networks affect behavior and health, and to explore how networks are biologically and genetically encoded. New directions for the lab include investigations of the fundamental, pro-social functions of networks, experimental work manipulating network connection and contagion, explorations of social networks in the developing world, and genetic and biological studies of social network features.

Our work is interdisciplinary and collaborative, and our lab group meetings involve students at all levels (undergraduate, graduate, medical, and post-doctoral); faculty from numerous disciplines (sociology, economics, political science, anthropology, computer science, evolutionary biology, medicine, public health, statistics, engineering, etc.); and staff with diverse expertise (data science, global health, software development, etc.). Our work is supported by diverse governmental agencies, private philanthropies, and commercial entities. We have collected data and done public health interventions in diverse populations in many countries around the world, beyond the USA – including Tanzania, Sudan, Uganda, India, and a major, ongoing field site in Honduras.

Older research in other topic areas that is no longer an active part of our agenda (e.g., prognostication, end-of-life care, physician decision making, etc.) is reflected in our publication list.