You work at a restaurant and you just took two reservations for two different parties of four. One consisted of a pair of couples, the other of four equally-unacquainted acquaintances. Which party is most likely to show up for their reservation? In other words, does pairwise coordination support, undermine, or have no effect on coordination at the scale of the group? One the one hand, coordination between two things is easer than coordination between four, so maybe the two couples will be most likely to show up. On the other hand, if the point of dinner is to have company, each member of each couple already has company and may be less motivated to go to dinner. So which is it? Though it might not look like it at first, this question is very important for “network theory,” the theory that we don’t need to study the group at full scale to understand group-scale phenomena, and that we can instead make do by studying the set of all pairs of group members. Most people think there will be a difference between the two groups. But if you believe in network theory, and your beliefs are consistent, than you should think that there is no effect. And you’ll be wrong. In experiments with Rob Goldstone, I test whether there are interactions between the different scales at which groups can coordinate. Read about it in the working paper.
Do teamwork experts deviate from practiced plays to return each other’s favors? Professional basketball is tense, competitive, and high-stakes. There are team strategies and a good reasons to stick to them. So, within that, how do players respond to favors? Robb Willer, Amanda Sharkey, and I found evidence for direct reciprocity in assists: If you assist a shot of mine, then for the next five minutes I am 10% more likely to assist you. We also looked for two other kinds of reciprocity: indirect and generalized. PLOS ONE.
An important part of engineering socially empowering technologies is engineering social systems that support them. Work with Adriano Galati and others elaborates one example in the area of international development and mobile empowerment. IEEE GHTC.
Speculative self-published abstracts. Because thinking is faster than doing, I throw up abstracts for interesting projects that I will never do. List.