Assistant Professor of Psychology
Social connections are vital to human flourishing. Being well-integrated in a community yields many benefits, including career opportunities, access to information and resources, emotional support, improved physical and mental health. Despite these benefits, people are spending less time with friends and have fewer close confidants than a few decades ago. To address the pressing societal issues of loneliness and disconnect, we need to understand why some people succeed in forming and maintaining a diverse network of social ties. And with the increasing diversity of our globalized communities, it is also important to understand how people bridge differences to become friends with people from other cultures and identities.
To better understand how people connect, my research examines social behavior and relationships at multiple levels of analysis. Social connection begins with moments of interpersonal behavior: shared laughter, the exchange of interesting ideas, the achievement of synchrony. My lab studies the form and function of the nonverbal and verbal behaviors people use to understand each other and build bonds. But no social connections exist in isolation: they are links in an interconnected and dynamic network. That’s why we also study how people build their social networks. We zoom out one more time to consider what happens when people leave one social network for another, and what happens when enough people move around to create culturally diverse communities. Social behavior is rich and multimodal, so we use many methods, including mobile sensing, social network analysis, acoustic analysis, natural language topic modeling, agent-based modeling, and behavioral economics games.