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Research Areas

We currently have three lines of research that all surround the big question of — what factors underlie social (dis)connection?

In answering these questions, we integrate different levels of analysis, from nationally-representative surveys and behavioral experiments to neuroimaging and social network analysis.

Individual differences in objective and subjective social (dis)connection


People experience varying levels of social connection. What makes certain people better at achieving social connection than others? What distinguishes people who are well-connected in their social network? What factors contribute to feelings of loneliness? We are interested in exploring the neural and behavioral characteristics that contribute to whether an individual experiences high or low levels of social connection. Current questions in this line of work include:

  • How do individuals who experience subjective disconnection (e.g., loneliness) see the world around them compared to others in their social circles? Does this increase their risk for developing mood disorders such as depression and anxiety?

  • Are individuals who are well-connected in a social network distinguished in the way that they process the world around them?

  • Are well-connected or less well-connected individuals at a greater risk for social influence/sensitivity to negative social experiences?

  • Can we encourage social connection through interventions designed to promote shared understanding?

Information sharing and its role in promoting social connection


What motivates us to share information with others? Information sharing is a behavior that we engage in frequently that has the potential for widespread consequences. At the population level, information that is shared has the potential to spread widely and impact the attitudes, opinions, and behaviors of many people. At the interpersonal level, information sharing can help us construct and maintain a shared reality with others that is critical to achieving social connection. Current questions in this line of work include:


  • ​What motivates us to share information with others?

  • How does sharing information with others foster social connection?

  • Can we target social motivations to curtail the spread of misinformation?

Social influence and persuasion

Attempts to socially influence and persuade others are all around us — from a friend trying to convince us to try out a new restaurant to public service announcements promoting a behavior. What determines whether such attempts to influence and persuade are successful? Current questions in this line of work include:

  • What distinguishes a successful communicator/persuader? Can we train people to become better communicators?

  • Are messages that bring people's brains into sync also more likely to lead to message-congruent behavior change?

  • How do perceptions of norms shape mental processing of risky behaviors such alcohol use?

  • What are the social network and neural features that distinguish influential individuals?

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