About

Senior Lecturer and Postdoc
PhD in Applied Mathematics
MSc in Mathematics, MSc in Computer Science, BA in English

I study human behaviour and its effects on society through mathematics, experiments and simulations. I am currently focusing on issues related to cooperation, homophily, segregation and norm change, and am generally interested in issues related to analytical sociology and cultural evolution.

Groups and cooperation

Group membership may be defined through ethnicity, common language, shared preferences or any aggregation of people with some defining characteristics, and leads to widespread phenomena such as ingroup favouritism and polarisation of opinions and attitudes. Previous experiments have shown that these effects can be triggered by even completely arbitrary distinctions between groups. Through game theory and behavioural experiments, I have studied what are possible mechanisms behind group discrimination, and what means there are to increase cooperation between groups.

Segregation

Groups tend to cluster in society, such that people of similar background end up going to the same schools, workplaces and live in certain neighbourhoods, separated from other groups, with the result of reproducing social inequalities. I have worked on inferring propensities for social ties among immigrants in school based on data on educational choices; simulating residential segregation; surveying people’s attitudes towards ethnically diverse workplaces; and investigated how segregation and polarisation can be mutually reinforcing through social influence.

Cultural evolution

I am interested in the mechanisms that shape and change human culture, broadly defined as socially learned behaviour. Culture is subject to an evolutionary process: there is variation, it is replicated between individuals and cultural traits have different rates of survival. I have studied the spread of popular traits through turnover rates on toplists, the emergence of Creole languages, and democratic transitions.

Norms and attitudes change

I am currently conducting experiments on how changes in norms and attitudes can be predicted from the moral foundations of individuals. Previous research on moral foundations has shown that moral judgements are generally based on a limited number of categories. While individuals vary in which categories are important to them, some of these categories are important to almost everyone, and thus seem to drive moral norm change in society.

Democratic transitions

Using data on political institutions, I have examined general patterns for democratic transitions, and am currently involved in a large project on identifying sequences of democratisation processes.