Research Topics

Collective Minds

In a dynamic world, people need to respond to change – sometimes quickly. We investigate how collectives, from small groups to entire societies, adapt their beliefs, decisions, and organizational structures. We try to understand what sometimes hinders them from adapting effectively.

Human collectives adapt their cognitive strategies and social networks flexibly in response to multiple changing problems. For example, we as citizens participate in diverse collectives – our family, our neighborhood, or our political party. In other words, we are part of diverse collective minds. These collectives use a variety of strategies to address challenges ranging from climate change to armed conflicts to global pandemics. The ability for collective adaptation contributed to our species’ success, yet sometimes collectives become stuck and unable to adapt to the problems they face.

Currently, we are lacking a solid scientific paradigm for studying collective adaptation. Instead, its intertwined cognitive and social dimensions have been studied in relatively isolated disciplines. We bring these dimensions together in computational models grounded in real-world data on cognition and sociality. The data we use comes from group experiments, natural language processing of large textual corpora, and longitudinal surveys.

Our approach helps us to understand how the interplay between our cognition and social networks affects our collective ability to cope with emerging challenges. It also enables us to study the formation and persistence of individual and collective beliefs about what challenges need to be tackled in the first place.


  • Identifying barriers hindering collectives from reaching seemingly obvious solutions to current challenges
  • Anticipating the undesirable future consequences of collective adaptation to current problems
  • Understanding how diversity of beliefs in a group affects collective agency
  • Going beyond disciplinary boundaries to help answer critical questions facing our society today
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