Human Cooperation Laboratory

 

MIT’s Human Cooperation Lab brings together researchers from across the social and natural sciences to study human decision-making. The lab, directed by Professor David Rand, uses a range of different methods and approaches, including economic games, survey experiments, field experiments, dual process theories, social networks, 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 (arechar@mit.edu). 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 Associate Professor of Management Science and Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT, an affiliate of the MIT Institute of Data, Systems, and Society, and the director of the Human Cooperation Laboratory and the Applied Cooperation Team. Bridging the fields of behavioral economics and psychology, David’s research combines behavioral experiments run online and in the field with mathematical and computational models with to understand people’s attitudes, beliefs, and choices. His work uses a cognitive science perspective grounded in the tension between more intuitive versus deliberative modes of decision-making, and explores topics such as cooperation, outrage, misinformation, political preferences, and social media platform behavior. David received his B.A. in Computational Biology from Cornell University in 2004 and his Ph.D. in Systems Biology from Harvard University in 2009, was a post-doctoral researcher in Harvard University’s Department of Psychology from 2009 to 2013, and was an Assistant and then Associate Professor of Psychology, Economics, and Management at Yale University prior to joining the faculty at MIT.

 

Associate Research Scientists

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.

 

Erez Yoeli is a research associate at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, where he directs the Applied Cooperation Team (ACT). His research focuses on altruism: understanding how it works and how to promote it. He collaborates with governments, nonprofits, and companies to apply the lessons of this research towards addressing real-world challenges like increasing energy conservation, improving antibiotic adherence, reducing smoking in public places, and promoting philanthropy.

 

Post-doctoral Researchers

Rebecca Littman’s research focuses on collective violence, group identification, and behavior change. For example, how does engaging in extreme behavior on behalf of one’s group influence identity and social relationships? She uses a range of experimental and descriptive methods to tackle related questions in the US and in conflict-affected countries such as Liberia and Nigeria. In particular, she has an interest in developing theoretically informed interventions to test in field settings. Rebecca received her PhD in Psychology and Social Policy from Princeton University.

 

Mohsen Mosleh research interests lie at the intersection of computational and social sciences. In particular, he studies misinformation on online social media, social networks (and population structure in general), and social norms. In his research, he uses theoretical models based on evolutionary game theory, network science, agent-based modeling as well as empirical (data-driven) models based on online behavioral experiments on networks, machine learning, and natural language processing. Prior to MIT, he was at the department of psychology at Yale as a Postdoc. He received his PhD in engineering with a graduate certificate in Business Intelligence and Analytics, Masters in Management, and BSc in Engineering.
 

 
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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? Nick received his PhD in Psychology from Yale University.

 

Graduate Students

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 received his BA in math and computer science at Pomona College, and is currently a PhD student at MIT’s Media Lab.

 

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.

 

Affiliated Researchers

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?

 

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.

 
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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.

 

Alumni

2018

Adam Bear was a graduate student in the HCL from 2013-2018. He is now a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University. In the HCL, he developed computational models of cooperation, exploring how people navigate the metacognitive tradeoff between using simple heuristics and more complex cognition when deciding whether to cooperate. Before coming to Yale, Adam earned an M.A. in philosophy and a B.A. in cognitive science from Brown University.

 

Jillian Jordan was a graduate student in HCL from 2014-2018. She is now a postdoctoral fellow in the Dispute Resolution Research Center of the Management and Organizations Department at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. Her 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 Pennycook was a postdoctoral fellow in HCL from 2016-2018. He is now an Assistant Professor of Behavioural Science at University of Regina’s Hill/Levene Schools of Business. His 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.

 

2017

Jonathan Schulz was a postdoctoral fellow in HCL from 2015-2017, 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.

 

 

Christina Starmans studies adults' and children's reasoning about the self and personal identity. In the HCL, she was 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 investigated 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. She is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto.

 

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.