Calleva Research Centre project

Investigating the effect of network structure and dynamics on social behaviour in humans


Laura Fortunato | Adam Kenny | Shai de Vries | Ilse Pit | Rhea Arini |

project aims and activities

What factors sustain cooperation in humans? The answer to this question is of both theoretical and practical interest, as human societies face challenges that can only be addressed through cooperative behaviour. Recent events, most notably in the political world, highlight the importance of understanding social behaviour within and between groups.

This project investigates empirically the effect of network structure and dynamics on social behaviour in humans, focusing on factors related to cooperation and competition, including the role of social norms. It brings together researchers with expertise in cultural evolution, the evolution of cooperation, and the social-psychological study of inter-group conflict.

The project, in part, involves data collection in the town of Siena, Italy, which is divided into 17 contrade, local neighbourhoods in historic conflict. Each Sienese is bound to a contrada, involving participation in rituals and other activities throughout the year and culminating in the Palio, two bareback horse races held in the central town square over the summer months. Thus, this setting can be used to test hypotheses about patterns of interactions within and between naturally-occurring human groups. The project also involves data collection in laboratory settings and across social media outlets, to provide a broader picture of the effect of network structure and community norms on social behaviour across human domains.

siena torre-del-mangia
Torre del Mangia in Siena, Italy. Photo by Adam Kenny.