Walk us through your resume: how did you get into the topic of your course?
My idea of “sociology” is a discipline that explains complex social patterns by looking at how individuals think and behave when interacting. Interaction is key to understand society, either we want to understand collective opinions or residential segregation patterns. We must examine how people think of one another, how they behave in interaction contexts, and how beliefs and actions aggregate to determine collective patterns. I always thought that it was difficult to reconstruct these patterns by only looking at aggregate statistics. I always tried to developed controlled (lab or field) experiments and used computational models that simulate complex interactions to ground sociological analysis on human behaviour. That is why I believe “behavioural sociology” is interesting and so especially in our current societies today, where human behaviour seems so unpredictable.
What will students learn by attending your classes?
Students will familiarize with experimental methods and learn how to use them to understand social behaviour. They will learn that we need hypotheses about human behaviour before turning into data collection and analysis. I will integrate traditional experimental techniques (laboratory, field and online experiments) and computational techniques (agent-based modelling and social networks). I will stress the importance of counterfactual and implication analysis. I will stimulate inquisitive thinking. We will also play ‘real’ games, ‘real’ decisions in lab sessions. Inquisitive thinking will be applied to real cases.
How would your students describe you?
Ah, surely that I am fast talking. Probably, even that I am crossing too many disciplines and fields. When I explain group behaviour I sometimes begin with chimpanzees! However, I believe that when trying to understand social behaviour, confining ourselves into a single discipline is an intellectual crime and I do not want to be accused of this from my students. Disciplines are only entry points into an intellectual journey. They will understand!
Please, tell us something about yourself that’s not on your resume.
My dear students, you will soon realise that I am the best professor you ever had. However, I do not want that you devaluate other professors and so I randomly commit intentional mistakes, such as forgetting references and commenting p-values wrongly. Be aware: when I do that, I am maximising the faculty reputation against personal fame!