Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD – HUMAN NATURE LAB at Harvard University | Exploring relationships between social networks and health

Posted on by Brandon Klein

Our lab integrates biological and social approaches to human nature, in what we call biosocial science. In addition, we bring the power of our species’ newest adaptation to life on this planet – the internet – into our sphere of inquiry. We do this by exploiting the availability of data regarding the behaviors of millions of people online and also by deploying experiments online in order to study behaviors ranging from cooperation to health-seeking.

Humans are at once social and biological animals, and our bodies have evolved so that our perceptions and experiences come to be reflected in the biological systems that regulate our bodily functions and behaviors – via changes in our hormonal, neurological, and other physiological systems, and even via changes in the expression of our genes.

Research in the Human Nature Lab cuts across academic disciplines. Our group includes investigators trained in sociology, evolutionary biology, medicine, economics, psychology, biological anthropology, statistics, political science, physics, and mathematics. We use observational and experimental methods to explore the ways in which biological and social factors conspire to influence human experience, over time intervals ranging from days to decades to eons. Our work sheds light on a diverse but inter-related set of topics, exploring the bi-directional relationship between our genes and physiology on the one hand and our social experiences and behavior on the other.

Our current work is focused on the structure and function of human social networks. We conduct both basic research directed at understanding networks and applied work aimed at improving public health and public policy – including very large-scale field experiments both online and in developing world settings.