We’re pleased to welcome a special guest: Dr. Sonja Vogt, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Business and Economics, University of Lausanne. She will be presenting the following project:

Social Tipping Our Way – Or Maybe Not – To Some Kind of Future

Abstract: How can a social planner use an intervention to disrupt the status quo and recruit cultural evolutionary processes to activate sweeping social change? When conformity and coordination incentives hold, such an intervention can operate through at least two channels. It has a direct effect if some people exposed to the intervention change behavior as a result. It also has an indirect effect if some people change behavior because they observe others doing so. If the indirect effect is large, it dramatically amplifies the direct effect, a possibility that has generated considerable enthusiasm in policy discussions. That said, mundane forms of heterogeneity introduce a number of challenges. First, some forms of heterogeneity strongly interfere with social change because group identities are active and favor chronic disagreement. Second, even when sweeping social change is feasible, the social planner should often expect a trade-off between the direct and indirect effects of the intervention. Increasing one effect means decreasing the other, and social planners may often lack the information they need to resolve the trade-off effectively.

Bio: Sonja Vogt received her PhD at the Interuniversity Center for Social Science Theory and Methodology (ICS) at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. She was then a senior research associate in the Department of Economics at the University of Zurich. From Zurich she moved to Oxford, where she was a senior postdoctoral officer at the Centre for Experimental Social Sciences in Oxford. Currently, Sonja is an associate professor at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, and she is affiliated with Nuffield College and the Sociology Department at the University of Oxford. Sonja has published in Nature, Science, and Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Her research focuses on social development, with a particular emphasis on culturally sensitive topics where attitudes and behavior are hard to measure. Examples include female genital cutting, prenatal sex-selection, corruption, and various types of discrimination. Sonja has projects in Sudan, Armenia, Columbia, Brazil, Kenya, and Nigeria.