Damon Centola

Author, "Change: How to Make Big Things Happen and How Behavior Spreads" | Elihu Katz Professor of Communication, Sociology, and Engineering; Director, Network Dynamics Group, University of Pennsylvania | Senior Fellow, Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics
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Damon Centola is the Elihu Katz Professor of Communication, Sociology and Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is Director of the Network Dynamics Group and Senior Fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics.
Damon’s research centers on social networks and behavior change. His work has received numerous scientific awards, including the Goodman Prize for Outstanding Contributions to Sociological Methodology in 2011; the James Coleman Award for Outstanding Research in Rationality and Society in 2017; and the Harrison White Award for Outstanding Scholarly Book in 2019. He was a developer of the NetLogo agent based modeling environment, and was awarded a U.S. Patent for inventing a method to promote diffusion in online networks. He is a member of the Sci Foo community and fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.
Popular accounts of Damon’s work have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, TIME, The Atlantic, Scientific American and CNN, among other outlets. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the James S. McDonnell Foundation, the Templeton Foundation, and the Hewlett Foundation. Damon’s speaking and consulting clients include Amazon, Apple, Cigna, General Motors, Microsoft, Ben & Jerry’s, the U.S. Army, and the NBA, among others. He is a series editor for Princeton University Press and the author of How Behavior Spreads: The Science of Complex Contagions (PUP 2018), and Change: How to Make Big Things Happen (Little Brown/Spark 2021).


Sample Topics Areas

When it comes to transforming behaviors and beliefs, the dynamics of change are different: beliefs and behaviors are not transmitted from person to person in the simple way that a virus is. The real story of social change is more complex. When we are exposed to a new idea, our social networks guide our responses in striking and surprising ways. Drawing on deep-yet-accessible research and fascinating examples from business, sports, health, lifestyle, and politics, CHANGE presents a groundbreaking and paradigm-shifting new science for understanding what drives change, and how we can change the world around us. Sample Topic Areas: | The Power of Social Networks To Address Climate Change and Public Policy | Using Networks to Change Vaccination Behavior and Improve Health Policy | Designing Organizations To Be More Adaptive and Innovative | Social Movements, # MeToo, and Arab Spring | Social Media, Bots and Presidential Elections | The Myths of Viral Marketing, Influencer Marketing and Stickiness | Social Norms in Politics, Culture, and Media | Triggering Tipping Points for Social Change | The Secret Behind the Diffusion of Innovations, From Corn Seed to Instagram | The Network Approach to Bias and Belief Change | Using Team Networks to Improve Scientific Innovation and Artistic Creativity | Physicians’ Social Networks and the Source of Clinical Errors | Black Plague, H1N1 and coronavirus | Why Good Strategies Backfire, and How To Prevent It From Happening to You | How to Incentivize Change (When Money Works and When Money Fails) | The Power of People Like Us & Unlike Us To Stimulate Change | How Do You Get From # IceBucketChallenge to # Revolution | Harnessing the Untapped Collective Intelligence in Your Organization | How Networks Improved the NBA’s Draft Picks and Obama’s Foreign Policy | The Secret of Cultural Change: How Wittgenstein predicted # MeToo | What’s in a Norm? From Handshakes to Gender Politics

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SFI Community Lecture | Santa Fe Institute
Damon Centola
PSC Colloquium 2019
Damon Centola
How Behavior Spreads: The Science of Complex Contagions
Damon Centola
Here’s How To Solve Political Polarization on Climate Change
Damon Centola


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Untapped insights, network dynamics, and a unique approach to NBA scouting
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Study finds surprising source of social influence
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Physician Reasoning
Network Dynamics Group
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Medical bias can be deadly. Our research found a way to curb it
Los Angeles Times


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