Human Cooperation Laboratory

 

Yale University’s Human Cooperation Lab brings together researchers from across the social and natural sciences to study prosociality: Why are people willing to help each other, and how can prosociality be promoted? The lab, directed by Professor David Rand, uses a range of different methods to approach these questions, including economic games, online experiments, field experiments, dual process theories, social network analysis, and computational modeling. More details on our various projects can be found here, and on lab members’ individual webpages.

If you are interested in getting involved with the lab as a research assistant, graduate student, post-doctoral researcher, or visiting scientist, please contact our research coordinator Antonio Alonso Arechar. Antonio can also be contacted for information regarding attendance of our weekly lab meetings.

The current members of the Human Cooperation Lab are:

 

Principal Investigator

David Rand is an associate professor of psychology, economics, and management at Yale University, and the director of Yale University’s Human Cooperation Laboratory. He received his B.A. in computational biology from Cornell University in 2004 and his Ph.D. in systems biology from Harvard University in 2009. David’s research considers (1) what prosocial and antisocial decisions people will make in particular situations and social environments, (2) the cognitive mechanisms that determine how these decisions are actually made, and (3) the ultimate explanations for why our decision-making processes have come to function as they do. In doing so, he combines empirical observations from behavioral experiments with predictions generated by math models and computer simulations using evolutionary game theory.

 

Post-doctoral Research Coordinator

Antonio Alonso Arechar investigates the role of social cues in group decision-making. In particular, he uses experimental methods to assess how communication, anonymity and social networks influence economic behavior. He has developed an open-source online platform for interactive experiments and is currently working on its optimization. In the past, he has also conducted cross-cultural experiments and collaborated with the private sector in the design of behavioral models of consumption. He obtained his Ph.D in Experimental Economics under the supervision of Simon Gächter and Chris Starmer from the University of Nottingham.

 

Post-doctoral Researchers

Gordon Pennycook's research is generally focused on dual-process theories of reasoning and decision-making. He investigate the distinction between intuitive processes (“gut feelings”) and more deliberative (“analytic”) reasoning processes. He is principally interested in the causes (a) and consequences (b) of analytic thinking.

 

Jonathan Schulz is a postdoctoral fellow, having previously worked at the University of Nottingham. His research focuses on cross-cultural differences in social norms and decision making. He has conducted experiments all around the globe, investigating societal differences in intrinsic honesty and cooperation. He is particularly interested in the permeability of societies' network structures and its effect on moral behavior.

 

Graduate Students

Adam Bear is broadly interested in addressing questions about how people’s folk theories of other minds, freedom, and the self influence their moral judgments and behavior. In the HCL, he is particularly keen on exploring dual-process models of morality and cooperation by using both experimental and computational methods. Before coming to Yale, Adam earned an M.A. in philosophy and a B.A. in cognitive science from Brown University.

 

Jillian Jordan's research investigates the functions of human social cognition and behavior, with a focus on cooperation and morality. Jillian integrates approaches from psychology, experimental economics, and evolutionary game theory. She is interested in questions like: Why do humans condemn others for immoral or selfish behavior? How do we select collaborative interaction partners, and signal our quality as prospective partners? Why do we hate hypocrites? In 2013, Jillian graduated summa cum laude from Harvard University. Her research is funded by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

 

Gordon Kraft-Todd is interested in the question: How can individuals spread cooperative behavior? Types of cooperative behavior I am interested in include environmental (e.g. installing solar panels), mundane (e.g. holding a door open), charitable (e.g. giving to charity), and heroic (e.g. donating a kidney). I currently use online and survey methods (Qualtrics, mTurk) and plan to incorporate various other methods (machine learning, social network analysis, computational modeling) to develop a richer understanding of these phenomena. I aim to conduct research that both contributes to the literature and has practical import. For that reason, I am particularly interested in interventions and field studies.

 
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Nick Stagnaro is interested in how people construct and enforce their interpretations of the “right way to live a life.” More specifically, he is focused on combining social, cognitive, and evolutionary psychology with evolutionary game theory to address the intersection of morality and religion and their effects on cooperation and conflict. His research addresses questions such as: How do people understand the folk concept of evil? How have religious beliefs evolved in humans and how is it adapting to the current social cultural environment? How do people deal with being labeled as cheaters and liars?

 

Affiliated Researchers

Dorsa Amir is an evolutionary anthropologist interested in the physiology and psychology of contemporary humans, with a focus on small-scale societies. Her research covers a range of topics such as cultural and ecological correlates to decision-making, early life environmental effects on behavior, and the evolutionary biology of senescence. She conducts fieldwork in Amazonian Ecuador with Shuar hunter-horticulturalists.

 

Syon Bhanot is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Swarthmore College. Syon uses experimental methods to develop and test theories from behavioral economics, social psychology, public economics, and development economics. He specializes in using field experiments, conducted with real world organizations as partners, to explore cooperative behavior, motivation, and decision making in a variety of areas (including financial and environmental behavior). He completed his Ph.D. at Harvard University in 2015, and also an holds an M.P.P. from the Harvard Kennedy School and a B.A. from Princeton University.

 

Valerio Capraro got his PhD in Mathematics in 2011 at the University of Rome “Tor Vergata” and he is currently a Post-Doc at the Center for Mathematics and Computer Science (CWI) in Amsterdam. He combines behavioral experiments and math models to study human pro-social behavior, moral judgment, and their connection. He is also interested in policy interventions to promote pro-social behavior: does/when an incentive to act pro-socially in one situation spill over to other situations in which there is no incentive?

 

Ziv Epstein is interested in exploring prosocial norms and altruistic decision-making through the lens of computer science. In particular, his research utilizes machine learning, web development and NLP algorithms in online and big data settings. He is also interested in mapping the findings of cooperation research to industry and society at large. Ziv currently is pursuing his BA studying math and computer science at Pomona College.

 

Anthony Evans is a social psychologist interested in the cognitive processes underlying trust and cooperation in social dilemmas. His work investigates how different cognitive processes – such as self-control, reflection, and feelings of conflictedness – influence how people reason in social situations. His research on trust focuses on the different strategies people use for decisions involving social trust versus individual risk-taking. Anthony completed his PhD in psychology at Brown University and is currently an assistant professor at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. 

 

Oliver Hauser is a doctoral student at Harvard University. In his research, he is interested in the role of reciprocity in the prosocial and cooperative interactions. He further studies how inequality affects both cooperation as well as individual and team performance. He has worked with the UK Cabinet Office’s Behavioural Insights Teams to apply his research to organisational and policy questions. Oliver is also affiliated with the Behavioral Insights Group and the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics at Harvard.

 

Moshe Hoffman applies game theory to address psychological questions, such as why we speak indirectly and why we consider lies of commission worse than lies of omission, with the help of models of evolution and learning dynamics and experimental tools from economics and psychology. Moshe got his PhD in economics from the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business and is currently a Research Scientist at Harvard's Program for Evolutionary Dynamics and a lecturer at MIT's Department of Economics.

 

Matt Jordan has a variety of research interests centered around judgment and decision-making. These include the role of intuition and deliberation during choice, how basic cognitive processes like attention and memory influence and underlie decision-making, and the psychological processes and evolutionary origins of social preferences.

 
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Kyle Peyton is a third year graduate student working on a PhD in Political Science and a MA in Statistics. His research focuses on how interactions among institutions, social norms and behavior explain political outcomes. He is especially interested in the design and analysis of experiments for social science research and organizes the ISPS Experiments Workshop. Before coming to Yale, Kyle worked on public policy research as a Research Fellow at the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economics and Social Research at the University of Melbourne. He has an undergraduate degree in economics from Loyola University Chicago and is a dual citizen of the United States and Australia.

 

Christina Starmans studies adults' and children's reasoning about the self and personal identity. In the HCL, she is particularly interested in questions about how we view past and future versions of ourselves, and how our thoughts about future selves affect our planning and decision making for the future. In other work she is investigating adults' and children's intuitions about what kinds of properties the self might have, as well as how we reason about conflict within the self (the proverbial angel & devil on the shoulders), and the moral implications of attributing a self to an entity.

 

Danielle Toupo obtained her B.S. in quantitative biology from the University of Delaware and her M.S. in applied mathematics from Cornell University. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the center for applied mathematics at Cornell University under the supervision of Steven Strogatz. She collaborates with the HCL lab analyzing mathematical and computational models of psychological processes in evolutionary games.

 

Erez Yoeli applies tools from economics to understand questions related to psychology. Erez is focused primarily on questions related to altruism, particularly those with policy implications and heavily relies on economic methods such as field experiments and econometrics. Erez got his PhD in economics from University of Chicago, Booth School of Business, and has since spent several years analyzing data, testifying in federal court and writing models related to fraud at the Federal Trade Commission. He is currently a Research Scientist at Harvard's Program for Evolutionary Dynamics and a lecturer at MIT's Department of Economics. 

 

Alumni

2015

Jeremy Cone was a post-doc in HCL from 2013-2015. He is now an assistant professor of Psychology at Williams College. His research aims to build a broad, inter-disciplinary understanding of how non-conscious processes function and how and when they result in
changes to implicit mental representations. In particular, he explores what kinds of information influence the formation of implicit evaluations, how quickly they can be changed, and what downstream consequences they have on actual behavior across a range of domains. To find Jeremy at his new home, check out http://cornellpsych.org/people/jcone/

 

Rimma Teper graduated from York University in Toronto, Canada with a B.A. in psychology and a B. Ed. She completed her Ph.D. in social psychology at the University of Toronto. Her past research has focused on the role that affective experience plays in shaping moral behavior and moral forecasting. Currently, she is interested in the emotional and motivational underpinnings behind different types of prosocial behavior. Her research is guided by questions like: what types of emotions cause people to cooperate with others? To help those in need? How do these emotions differ from those that motivate people to refrain from cheating, lying or stealing? Rimma's research is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

 

2013

Alex Peysakhovich was a post-doc in the HCL from 2013-2014. He is now a behavioral economist on the Core Data Science team at Facebook. He is interested in how to combine tools from machine learning with those of social and behavioral science to improve the outputs of both. In particular, he studies how individuals make decisions under uncertainty and learn about the world, why people help others and contribute to public goods even when they have nothing to gain, how culture and formal rules interact, how to design institutions taking into account human psychology, and how self-control works.