David G. Rand is an Associate Professor of Psychology, Economics, Cognitive Science and Management at Yale University and director of Yale University's Human Cooperation Laboratory and Applied Cooperation Team. His work combines (i) empirical observations from behavioral experiments with (ii) predictions generated by evolutionary game theoretic math models and computer simulations. He asks what prosocial and antisocial decisions people will make in particular situations and social environments; the cognitive mechanisms that determine how these decisions are actually made; and the ultimate explanations for why our decision-making processes have come to function as they do. He draws on methodologies from psychology, economics and evolutionary biology, and is interested in applications including law, management and public policy. His work on promoting human cooperation has been featured on the front covers of both Nature and Science and reported widely in the media.
Rand earned his Ph.D., Harvard University in Systems Biology in 2009 at Harvard University and a B.A. from Cornell University summa cum laude in Computational Biology. After 4 years of post-doctoral studies at Harvard University, Rand began an assistant professorship at Yale University in Psychology, Economics, and Management
He also had an electro-punk musical project called Robot Goes Here, signed on Infidel Records, and played guitar and bass in numerous rock bands between 1998 and 2012.
In January 2012, Rand was named to Wired Magazine's Smart List 2012 as one of "50 people who will change the world"
Rand selected as one of ten 2012 Pop Tech Science Fellows, speaking at the annual PopTech conference in Camden Maine
Rand's publications include:Dreber, Rand et al. (2008) Winners don't punish. Nature 452 348-351. This work showed that subjects who spitefully punished uncooperative partners did poorly, while successful players instead reciprocated un-cooperativeness with un-cooperativeness. It was featured on the cover of Nature and also reported in the Daily Telegraph, New York Times Freakanomics, Boston Globe and other media
Rand et al. (2009) Positive interactions promote public cooperation. Science 325, 1272-1275. This work showed that rewards are as effective as punishments for promoting group cooperation in repeated interactions, and lead to better overall outcomes. It was featured on the cover of Science and also reported in New Scientist, MSN, Forbes, Discover Magazine and other media.
Rand et al. (2009) Dynamic remodeling of in-group bias during the 2008 presidential election. PNAS 106 6187-6191. This work showed that during the 2008 US presidential election, Obama and Clinton supports were more generous with supporters of their own preferred candidate, but that this bias disappeared following the DNC's symbolic emphasis on party unity. It was picked up by the Huffington Post.
Rand & Nowak (2009) How reputation could save the Earth. New Scientist 2734 28-29.
Beale, Rand et al. (2011) Individual versus systemic risk and the Regulator's Dilemma. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA., 31 12647-12652. This work showed that policies which make each individual bank as safe as possible may not in fact minimize risk for the system as a whole, but instead regulators should seek to promote diverse diversification, where there is some degree of specialization across different financial entities.
Rand, Arbesman & Christakis (2011) Dynamic networks promote cooperation in experiments with humans. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA., 108 19193-19198. This work experimentally validated the predictions of evolutionary game theory models suggesting that allowing people to make and break connections in their interaction network promotes cooperation: if you are selfish, then you will wind up alone.
Shenhav, Rand & Greene (2011) Divine intuition: cognitive style and belief in God. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. This work showed that people who are more intuitive are stronger believers in God on average, while people who are more reflective are more likely to be atheists; and that priming people to make them trust their intuitions increases belief in God.
Fudenberg, Rand & Dreber (2012) Slow to anger and fast to forgive: cooperation in an uncertain world. American economic review. This work showed, using behavioral experiments, that in repeated games where mistakes can occur, it is self-interested to be both lenient and forgiving.
Rand, Greene & Nowak MA (2012) Spontaneous giving and calculated greed. Nature, 489, 427–430. This work explored the cognitive mechanisms underlying cooperative behavior in public goods games and prisoner's dilemmas using a dual process framework. A series of 10 behavioral experiments showed that intuition supports cooperation, while reflection and deliberation lead to selfishness. The studies also provided evidence that this finding is the result of social heuristics developed in daily life where cooperation is advantageous due to factors like repetition, reputation and sanctions.
Rand & Epstein (2014) Risking Your Life without a Second Thought: Intuitive Decision-Making and Extreme Altruism. PloS one 9.10 (2014): e109687. This work validates the dual process framework developed in Spontaneous giving and calculated greed by looking at real world altruists recognized by the Carnegie Hero Fund. The paper found that the heroes overwhelming described their actions as fast and intuitive, and virtually never as carefully reasoned. It was listed as one of the Top 10 Insights from the Science of a Meaningful Life in 2014 by the Greater Good Science Center and was featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Vox (website) and Nautilus (science magazine).