Factors affecting group behavior have long been a subject of study in the social sciences, but until now research has remained limited to a small subset of our global population. NDSSL is developing a toolset to help researchers transcend these technical limitations and analyze the drivers of collective identity at an unprecedented scale.

Problem

At the heart of every effective team, every successful corporation, every group spurring social change, there is a sense of collective identity. For decades, social scientists have studied how this essential group dynamic influences our thoughts and actions, though practical constraints have limited their observations to small sub-sets of our total population. In an increasingly connected society, it is more essential than ever that we develop a means of understanding collective identity on a global scale.

Along with collaborators at Cornell, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern University, and Stanford, our researchers will develop new technologies to help decision-makers identify significant drivers of social cooperation, instability, and resilience. 

Methods

Over the past decade, NDSSL has developed a highly sophisticated simulation system capable of analyzing how the behavior of large populations is affected by a variety of social factors. This “synthetic information system” has recently grown to be global in scale, allowing researchers to target a study to a specific city or expand their investigation to encompass an entire continent.

global simulation map

Along with social science experts at our partner institutions, we plan to conduct a series of large-scale, online experiments to further refine the analytical powers of this computational modeling system. Through this rigorous development process our team will be able to provide unprecedented levels of insight into the dynamics of collective identity.

Impact

Building from our initial focus on the drivers of collective identity, our team aims to develop a toolset that can be applied to any domain requiring an in-depth understanding of group behavior, including national security, public health, and economics. By radically expanding the scope of social science research, we can support more effective decision-making in government, industry, and academia.

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