Academic Appointments

  • Assistant Professor, Organizational Behavior

2023-24 Courses

Stanford Advisees

All Publications

  • How Behavior Spreads: The Science of Complex Contagions (Book Review) CONTEMPORARY SOCIOLOGY-A JOURNAL OF REVIEWS Book Review Authored by: Atwell, J. 2020; 49 (2): 127–31
  • The Emergence of Groups and Inequality through Co-Adaptation PLOS ONE Atwell, J., Savit, R. 2016; 11 (6): e0158144


    The emergence of groups and of inequality is often traced to pre-existing differences, exclusionary practices, or resource accumulation processes, but can the emergence of groups and their differential success simply be a feature of the behaviors of a priori equally-capable actors who have mutually adapted? Using a simple model of behavioral co-adaptation among agents whose individual actions construct a common environment, we present evidence that the formation of unequal groups is endemic to co-adaptive processes that endogenously alter the environment; agents tend to separate into two groups, one whose members stop adapting earliest (the in-group), and another comprising agents who continue to adapt (the out-group). Over a wide range of model parameters, members of the in-group are rewarded more on average than members of the out-group. The primary reason is that the in-group is able to have a more profound influence on the environment and mold it to the benefit of its members. This molding capacity proves more beneficial than the persistence of adaptivity, yet, crucially, which agents are able to form a coalition to successfully exert this control is strongly contingent on random aspects of the set of agent behaviors. In this paper, we present the model, relevant definitions, and results. We then discuss its implications for the study of complex adaptive systems generally.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0158144

    View details for Web of Science ID 000378865200045

    View details for PubMedID 27362837

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4928893

  • Agent-Based Models in Empirical Social Research SOCIOLOGICAL METHODS & RESEARCH Bruch, E., Atwell, J. 2015; 44 (2): 186–221


    Agent-based modeling has become increasingly popular in recent years, but there is still no codified set of recommendations or practices for how to use these models within a program of empirical research. This article provides ideas and practical guidelines drawn from sociology, biology, computer science, epidemiology, and statistics. We first discuss the motivations for using agent-based models in both basic science and policy-oriented social research. Next, we provide an overview of methods and strategies for incorporating data on behavior and populations into agent-based models, and review techniques for validating and testing the sensitivity of agent-based models. We close with suggested directions for future research.

    View details for DOI 10.1177/0049124113506405

    View details for Web of Science ID 000353204200002

    View details for PubMedID 25983351

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4430112