The Social and Behavioral Science Initiative

Driving discovery and innovation by supporting the interdisciplinary study of social and behavioral science at Penn. The Initiative links together scholars who are addressing similar questions and provides infrastructure for research.


The Initiative supports and facilitates the production and refinement of research through access to shared lab spaces, monthly seminars in which faculty and students can present their work, small grants to support research, an annual social function with one outside speaker a semester, and the growth of a collaborative community.


The Initiative will support the education of its members by offering a centralized training program for undergraduates to develop research pertinent skills. Additionally, SBSI will fund conference/research travel costs for graduate students.


The Initiative seeks to develop a practice of interdisciplinary outreach to create links with various research entities, universities, and other Penn departments, to foster a network of research, communication, and collaboration.

Affiliated Faculty In The News

Hunter-gatherers Agree on What is Moral, but not Who is Moral

By Annie Drinkard
September 5th, 2019
Featuring Research by Affiliates Coren Apicella and Kristopher Smith

Social psychologists from the University of Pennsylvania wanted to know whether there was a universal concept of moral character. According to their work with the Hadza hunter-gatherers in Tanzania, the Hadza agree on which traits are relevant to moral character, but not on who has character.

Read the full article here

Democrats and Republicans are very bad at guessing each other’s beliefs

By Amanda Ripley
June 22nd, 2019
Featuring Research by Affiliate Daniel Yudkin

A survey conducted by the nonpartisan organization More In Common found that Americans on each side imagine that almost twice as many people on the other side hold extreme views than actually do.

Read the full article here

Social scientists trade academic silos for shared workspace

By Michele Berger
November 15th, 2018
SBSI Launch Event

Faculty and grad students in the new Social and Behavioral Sciences Initiative have access to two state-of-the-art labs, grants, and a collaborative environment aimed at creating a vibrant research community.

Read the full article here

Exploring The Human Propensity To Cooperate

By Michele Berger
September 20th, 2018
Featuring Research by Affiliate Coren Apicella

Working with a nomadic group in Tanzania, one of the last remaining nomadic hunter-gatherer populations, Penn psychologists show that cooperation is flexible, not fixed.

Read the full article here

Can Social Media Networks Reduce Political Polarization On Climate Change?

By Michele Berger
September 3rd, 2018
Featuring Research by Affiliate Damon Centola

A study from the Annenberg School for Communication shows that exposure to anonymous, bipartisan social networks can lead liberals and conservatives to improve their forecasting of global-climate trends

Read the full article here

What We Know About Voter ID Laws

By Dan Hopkins
August 21st, 2018
Authored by Affiliate Dan Hopkins

At a rally last month, President Trump endorsed voter ID laws, saying this to the audience: “Only American citizens should vote in American elections. Which is why the time has come for voter ID, like everything else. You know, if you go out and you want to buy groceries, you need a picture on a card.

Read the full article here

What Your Facebook Network Reveals about How You Use Your Brain

By Emily Falk and Michael Platt
July 9th, 2018
Authored by Affiliates Emily Falk and Michael Platt

If your friends mostly know each other only indirectly, through you, you’re likely to be a better problem solver and to be more successful overall

Read the full article here

Did You Buy Bitcoins? Your Brain’s Anatomy Might Be to Blame

By Angus Chen
April 5th, 2018
Featuring Research by Affiliate Joseph Kable

Scans show people who can endure greater risk share certain neurological features

Read the full article here

Would You Like To Participate In Behavioral Studies?

SBSI Experiments

By creating a SONA account on SBSI Experiments, you may participate either in-person or online studies. You sign up for an account if you are least 18 years old and can be an undergraduate student, graduate student, staff member, faculty, or someone unrelated to the university. Participants in the SBSI Experiments Participant Pool will be notified of upcoming paid experiments run by researchers. Studies pay by either cash or with a gift card. 

Are You A UPenn Affiliate? Would You Like To Be On The SBSI Listserv?

You will get updates regarding the launch event, monthly meetings, poster sessions, and funding opportunities.