Specific approaches and projects are discussed in the Approach, Projects, and Education pages, but at the highest level, we try to ask new questions, approach them in synthetic and novel ways, and suggest counter-intuitive solution avenues. For example, classical mathematical epidemiology ignores human behavior. We ask how human behavior affects epidemic dynamics, and we have pioneered the incorporation of psychology—including contagious fear--into the modeling of epidemic dynamics. Similarly, social network structures shape the transmission of diseases, norms, technologies, and other “signals.” Overwhelmingly, analyses assume a fixed network structure. We ask why networks happen, how the form and dissolve, and how these structural dynamics affect the spread of innovations and other drivers of social change. At the individual level, agent-based models have typically used cognitively minimal agents, to great effect in many cases. But, we ask whether the recent advances in cognitive neuroscience—including tremendous advances in neuroimaging—can usefully be brought to bear in agent models of chronic and infectious disease, disaster behavior, emergency response, or even genocide.
In short, our research seeks to ask new questions, answer them in new ways, and offer new approaches to problems of central human significance.