I am honored to be among this year’s SAGE Early Career Trajectory Award recipients. This Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) award recognizes scholars in the early stages of their professional careers that contribute to advancing the boundaries of personality and social psychology. Many thanks to my amazing mentors who have supported me over the years and continue to inspire me!
I attended the 15th Annual Meeting of The Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) in Austin, Texas. I presented a model at the Dynamical Systems and Computational Modeling in Social Psychology preconference. The model uses two principles of human decision making to produce the three key properties of human social networks – high clustering (a friend of a friend is likely your friend), low characteristic path length (“6 degrees of separation”), and a positively skewed degree distribution (most people have a few friends, but a few people have many friends).
My collaborator and advisor, Mark Schaller, presented a related model at a symposium on “The Role of Interpersonal Processes in Group Phenomena and Cultural Development”. The model presented some preliminary research using the model I presented to better understand the dynamics of social influence within social networks.
I attended the 14th Annual Meeting of The Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) in New Orleans, Louisiana. I presented a poster with results from two laboratory experiments I ran on cultural transmission. The experiments tested the predictions of several evolutionary models showing the relationship between sociality (population size, interconnectedness, etc) and cultural complexity.
My results show that when people can observe and learn from a wider range of teachers, groups can better maintain technical skills and even increase the group’s average skill over successive laboratory generations. These results suggest that the secret of our species’ success may lie in the combination of our imitative abilities and our sociality, not in our individual smarts.
I attended the 13th Annual Meeting of The Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) in San Diego, California. I presented a poster at the Evolutionary Preconference with preliminary results from my model of the coevolution of brains and culture. The model is a plausible explanation for the expansion of the human brain size during the Pleistocene.