I’m Cohen


I am a quantitative social scientist specialising in the mathematical study of face-to-face human social networks.

Sitting primarily within the tradition of analytical sociology, my core focus is network formation (i.e., Where do networks come from?). And I am especially interested in the emergence of networks that span small-scale, traditional human populations — i.e., microcosms wherein supportive relationships (e.g., friendship, advice, financial aid, food provision, and physical assistance) facilitate day-to-day survival by offsetting the challenges of poverty, subsistence-based living, and limited access to protective institutions (e.g., state welfare). I also have a deep interest in sociological and evolutionary theories of cooperation (e.g., kin selection theory; structural balance theory; social exchange theory), genetic kinship, and ecological arguments around how variation in individuals’ social and physical environments shape their (relational) behaviour. When appropriate, I make a special effort to draw on zoological research on the social networks of non-human animals. And I am generally interested in mixing social and evolutionary theory and interdisciplinary applications of network analysis.

Broadly speaking, sociologists tend to study the formation of networks in advanced economies in settings such as school classrooms and organisations (e.g., private firms, not-for-profits), leaving anthropologists to tackle traditional human societies. This division strikes me as deeply unfortunate as there is much for sociologists to contribute to the study of non-romantic social relationships in subsistence populations (e.g., advanced quantitative methods of social network analysis, theories of network formation).

Along this line, in a recent paper of mine in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences my co-author and I intentionally mix research from sociology and human evolutionary science to explore differences in cooperative behaviour between biological males and biological females, where I have also highlighted synergies between the sociology of social networks and evolutionary anthropology in a paper in Scientific Data. Furthermore, in a paper in Social Networks wherein I summarise a study on friendship amongst rice farmers in 162 villages in rural China, I have tried to raise awareness of sociologists’ over-reliance on network data from Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich and Democratic (i.e., WEIRD) societies (e.g., the U.S., the U.K., and the Netherlands) which are globally atypical. I ultimately call for studies of network formation using more diverse sociometric data (e.g., those from from villages in low- and middle-income countries). And, in another paper in Social Networks, I accessibly discuss some aspects of how such data might be collected, focusing in particular on social support.

Currently, I am a visiting researcher at the London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) in the Department of Methodology, having taught in the department as a Fellow in Quantitative Research Methods over the past year, and an Associate Member of Nuffield College, Oxford. Prior to joining the LSE, I was a Research Fellow and British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) and a Non-Stipendary Research Fellow at Nuffield College. Prior to joining the OII, and after my departure in 2020, I was a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Sociology at Oxford. And, before joining Oxford, I was a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Sociology at the University of Cambridge.

I received my PhD in Social Research Methods (i.e., applied statistics with a focus on social phenomena) from the LSE's Department of Methodology. And, before enrolling at the LSE, I completed a MSc in Social Science of the Internet at the OII and St Cross College as a Clarendon Scholar. In a previous life, I was rather interested in print journalism leading me to complete a BA in Communication Studies in America at Clemson University.