CounterBalance is a quarterly seminar series on applied belief dynamics, focusing on issues such as misinformation, disinformation, cyberhate and social polarization. The intention of these meetings is two-fold. First, these seminars provide a clearinghouse for scholars to share and discuss their findings with practitioners and policy makers. Second, these seminars provide an opportunity to contextualize emerging belief dynamics insights within the broader understanding of complexity science. CounterBalance is organized by the Santa Fe Institute and co-hosted by the Siegel Family Endowment.
Past Academic Speakers Include:
Amalia is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Mannheim School of Social Sciences. Prior to that, she was a senior research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods in Bonn.
Her general research interests focus on conditions under which social norms change and emerge, particularly the effects of social feedback and contextual information on perception and conformity to social norms.
Carl is a Professor of Biology at the University of Washington. Though trained in evolutionary biology and mathematical population genetics, he enjoys working across disciplines and integrating ideas across the span of the natural and social sciences.
The unifying theme running throughout his work is the concept of information. Within biology, he studies how communication evolves and how the process of evolution encodes information in genomes. In the philosophy and sociology of science, he studies how norms and institutions influence scholars’ research strategies and, in turn, our scientific understanding of the world. Within informatics, he studies how citations and other traces of scholarly activity can be used to better navigate the overwhelming volume of scholarly literature. Lately he has become concerned with the spread of disinformation on social networks, and interested in figuring out what we can do about it.
Cathy Buerger joined the Dangerous Speech Project (DSP) in September of 2017. She holds a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Connecticut (UConn), where her research examined the impact of human rights education on political beliefs and behavior in Ghana.
Her current research at the DSP focuses on global responses to dangerous and hateful speech as well as the process of identity formation among those who choose to respond to such speech. She also coordinates the DSP’s Global Research Fellowship.
Cathy is a Research Affiliate of UConn’s Economic and Social Rights Research Group, Managing Editor of the Journal of Human Rights, and an Editor for the Teaching Human Rights Database.
David Lazer is a University Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Computer Sciences, Northeastern University, and Co-Director, NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks. Prior to coming to Northeastern University, he was on the faculty at the Harvard Kennedy School (1998-2009). In 2019, he was elected a fellow to the National Academy of Public Administration. His research has been published in such journals as Science, Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, the American Political Science Review, Organization Science, and the Administrative Science Quarterly, and has received extensive coverage in the media, including the New York Times, NPR, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and CBS Evening News.
He is among the leading scholars in the world on misinformation and computational social science and has served in multiple leadership and editorial positions, including as a board member for the International Network of Social Network Analysts (INSNA), reviewing editor for Science, associate editor of Social Networks and Network Science, numerous other editorial boards and program committees.
Filippo Menczer is the Luddy distinguished professor of informatics and computer science and the director of the Observatory on Social Media at Indiana University. He holds a Laurea in Physics from the Sapienza University of Rome and a Ph.D. in Computer Science and Cognitive Science from the University of California, San Diego. Dr. Menczer is an ACM Fellow and a board member of the IU Network Science Institute. His research interests span Web and data science, computational social science, science of science, and modeling of complex information networks. In the last ten years, his lab has led efforts to study online misinformation spread and to develop tools to detect and counter social media manipulation.
Joshua is an an Associate Research Professor at Arizona State University in the Center on Narrative, Disinformation and Strategic Influence. The center, which is a unit of ASU’s Global Security Initiative, combines social science and advanced algorithms to study how stories shape people’s actions and world politics. Its goal is to help protect against hostile attempts to influence the U.S. and democracy.
Previously he held an Applied Complexity Fellowship at the Santa Fe Institute where he worked to bridge the gap between math theory and the messy data of the real world’s complex systems, like climate, belief dynamics or the human heart. He has also helped people understand how decision-making algorithms work, so that they can use these tools more fairly when it comes to issues like housing or criminal justice.
Lena Frischlich (PhD in Psychology, University of Cologne) is a junior research group leader in the Department of Communication at the University of Muenster, Germany. She researches the staging and effects of manipulation-oriented political online communication and aims at understanding how resilience against such manipulation attempts can be fostered. Since 2013 she has been (co-) PI on multiple third-party funding projects, including “Propaganda 2.0 – psychological effects of Islamic-extremist and right-wing extremist Internet videos”. Since 2018 she has led the interdisciplinary research group “DemoRESILdigital – democratic resilience in times of online-propaganda, fake news, fear and hate speech,” where she had the pleasure to work with a team of information scientists, psychologists, and communication scholars. From 2020 to 2021, Lena worked as an interim professor for media change at the Ludwigs-Maximilian University in Munich. Since 2020 she has been member of the young college of the North-Rhine Westphalian Academy of Science and the Arts.
Lydia Wilson is a research fellow at the Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict, Harris Manchester College, University of Oxford; senior fellow and field director at Artis International; and a visiting scholar at the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies, the Graduate Center, City University New York.
She graduated with a BA in Natural Sciences, an MPhil in History and Philosophy of Science, and a PhD in medieval Arabic philosophy, all from the University of Cambridge. During a postdoctoral research position in 2011, also at Cambridge, Lydia joined Artis International, starting with fieldwork in Northern Iraq. Work with Artis continued during a Mellon Fellowship at the Graduate Center, City University New York, and the founding of CRIC; fieldwork sites expanded to Lebanon and Northern Ireland (as well as continuing the work in Iraq), and responsibilities expanded to mentoring and training younger field workers. As well as her academic publications, Lydia writes for the Times Literary Supplement (on both medieval and modern Middle Eastern studies), the Nation, Nautilus, Rain Taxi, open democracy and others, and edits the Cambridge Literary Review
Marc Ziegele is an Assistant Professor of Communication and Media Studies with a focus on political online communication at the Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf. He is also head of the junior research group “Deliberative Discussions in the Social Web” funded by the Ministry of Culture and Science of North Rhine-Westphalia. Before coming to Düsseldorf, he worked as a research associate at the Department of Communication at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, where he also graduated in Media Economy.
His research interests include participation and discussions of citizens on the internet. The DIID-based junior research group investigates how the quality and effects of public user discussions about political topics can be improved. Moreover, Ziegele analyzes the sources and consequences of people’s trust in the mass media and different aspects of citizens’ use of the social web at the interface of Communication Studies and Psychology.
Mina is an Associate Professor in Harvard's Department of Psychology. Professor Cikara studies how the mind, brain, and behavior change when the social context shifts from “me and you” to “us and them.” She focuses primarily on how group membership, competition, and prejudice disrupt the processes that allow people to see others as human and to empathize with others. She uses a wide range of tools—standard laboratory experiments, implicit and explicit behavioral measures, fMRI and psychophysiology—to examine failures of empathy, dehumanization, and misunderstanding between groups. Mina Cikara is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and director of the Intergroup Neuroscience Lab.
Mirta Galesic is Professor at the Santa Fe Institute, External Faculty at the Complexity Science Hub in Vienna, Austria, and at the Vermont Complex Systems Center, UVM, as well as an Associate Researcher at the Harding Center for Risk Literacy at the University of Potsdam, Germany.
She studies how simple cognitive mechanisms interact with properties of the external environment to produce seemingly complex social phenomena. In one line of research, she investigates how apparent cognitive biases in social judgments emerge as a product of the interplay of well-adapted minds and the statistical structure of social environments. In another, she studies how collective performance depend on the interaction of group decision strategies and network structures. A third line of research investigates opinion dynamics in real-world societies using cognitively-enriched models from statistical physics. And, she studies how people understand and cope with uncertainty and complexity inherent in many everyday decisions.
Morteza is an Assistant Professor of Psychology and Computer Science USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. His expertise lies in political and moral language, textual and semantic analysis, and morality. He holds a Ph.D. Computer Science, Northwestern University, 2009 and completed his Postdoc at Northwestern University in Psychology.
Nafees Hamid is a Frederick Bonnart-Braunthal Trust scholar in the Terrorism and Organized Crime Unit in University College London’s department of Security and Crime Science, and an associate fellow at the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague. His research focuses on the psychology of radicalization as well as the rise of right-wing nationalism in Europe. As a field researcher he conducts ethnographic interviews, large-scale surveys, psychology field experiments, crime mapping, social network analysis and neuroimaging studies. These broad range of studies has led him to being a visiting scholar at the Santa Fe Institute where he worked with faculty on developing mathematical complex systems models of radicalization based on his ethnographic and survey data; and a visiting scholar at the Neuroimaging Unit at the Autonomous University of Barcelona where worked with neuroscientists on conducting the first ever brain scan studies of jihadist supporters and radicalized individuals. In Europe, his primary field sites are Barcelona, Paris, Lunel, Brussels, London and Birmingham yet he works collaboratively with ARTIS’ expansive research network on various conflicts around the world. He earned his graduate degree in Cognitive Science from École Normale Supérieure in Paris and completed a double major in Cognitive Science and Psychology at the University of California, San Diego. Previous to joining ARTIS, his research primarily focused on moral and political psychology as well as the cognitive impacts of HIV/AID’s medication, early detection markers of autism, and the embodiment of language. He has worked with many political organizations that have researched and communicated the effects of private campaign contributions on political decision-making, in the US. His career started as a professional stage and screen actor in the US and he continues to write and consult on film and TV scripts related to radicalization and international conflicts.
Neil Johnson is a professor of physics at GW and heads up a new initiative in Complexity and Data Science which combines cross-disciplinary fundamental research with data science to attack complex real-world problems. His research interests lie in the broad area of Complex Systems and ‘many-body’ out-of-equilibrium systems of collections of objects, ranging from crowds of particles to crowds of people and from environments as distinct as quantum information processing in nanostructures through to the online world of collective behavior on social media.
He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) and is the recipient of the 2018 Burton Award from the APS. He received his BA/MA from St. John's College, Cambridge, University of Cambridge and his PhD as a Kennedy Scholar from Harvard University. He was a Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge, and later a Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford until 2007, having joined the faculty in 1992. Following a period as Professor of Physics at the University of Miami, he was appointed Professor of Physics at George Washington University in 2018. He presented the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures "Arrows of Time" on BBC TV in 1999. He has more than 300 published research papers across a variety of research topics and has supervised the doctoral theses of more than 25 students. His published books include Financial Market Complexity published by Oxford University Press and Simply Complexity: A Clear Guide to Complexity Theory published by Oneworld Publications. He co-founded and co-directed CABDyN (Complex Agent-Based Dynamical Systems) which is Oxford University's interdisciplinary research center in Complexity Science, and an Oxford University interdisciplinary research center in financial complexity (OCCF).
Nicolas Velasquez Hernandez is a Post-Doctoral Research Scientist for the Institute for Data, Democracy and Politics at George Washington University
Olivia is a Neukom Postdoctoral Fellow in the departments of mathematics and sociology at Dartmouth. Her research focuses on the dynamics of human behavior and in particular, the effects that different forms of heterogeneity have on these dynamics. She uses a combination of mathematical modeling (including evolutionary game theory and opinion dynamics models), computational simulations, and data collection and analysis. Olivia employs these methods to study group-structured populations and the interplay between behavior, personality, group memberships, and interactions, with applications to the evolution of cooperation, social integration, and polarization. Before coming to Dartmouth, she received her Ph.D. in Quantitative and Computational Biology from Princeton, and her B.A. in Mathematics from NYU.
Rashad Ali is a Resident Senior Fellow at ISD. Rashad is a counter terrorism practitioner who works on deradicalisation initiatives alongside Prisons, Probation Services, Police and community groups. He was formerly a national leadership member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, the revolutionary Islamist organisation and has been actively involved in undermining its extreme ideology and perversion of Muslim faith since his departure. As a researcher he has given testimony and contributed submissions to the Home Affairs Select Committee on Radicalisation, the Parliamentary Select Committee on Intelligence and has briefed the London Mayor's office on Counter Terrorism and has been consulted by think tanks and governments in Germany, Denmark, the EU and the US. He is an external lecturer for Derby University’s Master Class courses on Radicalisation and Counter Terrorism. He has written for The Observer, The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent, The Times, Dissent Magazine, Birlingske in Denmark, Conservative Home, and given commentary for Newsnight, BBC News. He is the author of Islam, Shariah and the Far Right published by Demoqratiya journal, A Guide to Refuting Jihadism published by HJS and EFD, and the author of the ISD report Blasphemy, Charlie Hebdo, and the Freedom of Belief and Expression. He is classically trained in Islamic theology and jurisprudence and Modern studies in Islam. He studied at al-Azhar University, Cairo, and the Markfield Institute.
Rhys Leahy is a data science researcher at George Washington University where she studies online hate speech, misinformation, and information operations. She has co-authored papers on these topics in Nature, Scientific Reports, and IEEE, and her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and USA Today. Rhys is also a founding partner of ClustrX, a research firm that specializes in mapping and modeling online movements.
Simon A. Levin is the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University and the Director of the Center for BioComplexity in the Princeton Environmental Institute. His research examines the structure and functioning of ecosystems, the dynamics of disease, and the coupling of ecological and socioeconomic systems. Levin is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a Member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, and a Foreign Member of the Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, and the Istituto Lombardo (Milan). He has over 500 publications and is the editor of the Encyclopedia of Biodiversity and the Princeton Guide to Ecology. Levin’s awards include: the Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences, Kyoto Prize in Basic Sciences, Margalef Prize for Ecology, the Ecological Society of America’s MacArthur and Eminent Ecologist Awards, the Luca Pacioli Prize (Ca’Foscari University of Venice), the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, and the National Medal of Science.
Simon DeDeo is an Assistant Professor at Carnegie Mellon University in the Department of Social and Decision Sciences, and External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute. He is also affiliated with the Cognitive Science program at Indiana University, where he runs the Laboratory for Social Minds. For three years, from 2010 to 2013, he was an Omidyar Fellow at the Santa Fe Institute.
He and his collaborators study how people use words and signals, and the ideas they represent, to create a world. They have studied a diverse set of systems that includes the French Revolution, the courtrooms of Victorian London, the research strategies of Charles Darwin, the insurgency of modern-day Afghanistan, the emergent bureaucracy of Wikipedia, the creation of power hierarchies among the social animals, and the collusions and conspiracies of petrol stations in the American Midwest. They combine data from the contemporary world, archives from the deep past, statistical tools from cosmology, and models of human cognition from Bayesian reasoning and information theory to understand how cultures grow, flourish, innovate, and evolve.
Simon holds an A.B. in astrophysics from Harvard, a Master’s in applied mathematics and theoretical physics from Cambridge University, and a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Princeton University. He has held post-doctoral fellowships at the Institute for Physics and Mathematics of the Universe at the University of Tokyo and at the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago.
Professor Stephan Lewandowsky is a cognitive scientist at the University of Bristol and the recipient of numerous awards and honours, including a Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award from the Australian Research Council, a Wolfson Research Merit Fellowship from the Royal Society, and a Humboldt Research Award from the Humboldt Foundation in Germany. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Science (UK) and a Fellow of the Association of Psychological Science. He was appointed a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry for his commitment to science, rational inquiry and public education.
His research examines people’s memory, decision making, and knowledge structures, with a particular emphasis on how people update their memories if information they believe turn out to be false. This has led him to examine the persistence of misinformation and spread of “fake news” in society, including conspiracy theories. He is particularly interested in the variables that determine whether or not people accept scientific evidence, for example surrounding vaccinations or climate science.
Susan is an Adjunct Associate Professor at School of International Service at American University. She founded and directs the Dangerous Speech Project (dangerousspeech.org), to study speech that can inspire violence - and to find ways to prevent this, without infringing on freedom of expression. She conducts research on methods to diminish harmful speech online, or the harm itself. Trained as a human rights lawyer at Yale, Susan has worked for NGOs including Amnesty International and Human Rights First. She is also Faculty Associate of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.
Thalia Wheatley is a Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences and Director of the Center for Social Brain Sciences at Dartmouth. Her research program investigates how ideas and emotions are created collectively and how one person can influence another in ways that ripple across the social webs they inhabit. Using diverse methods including neuroimaging, natural language processing, cross-cultural behavior and social network analysis, Wheatley is building a framework to understand how minds couple with each other and why that coupling is so important to the stability and resilience of neural and social networks.
Ziqi is a Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in the Information School at University of Sheffield. Previously he was a computer science lecturer at the Computing and Technology Department at Nottingham Trent University. Before that he was a researcher in the OAK research lab at University of Sheffield. His research addresses methods that enable machines to extract human knowledge from text, to represent such knowledge in a structured representation that is understandable and usable by machines. This ultimately enhances our capability of processing and sense-making of very large scale data, improving decision making.