Research Director, Boston Area Research Initiative
Lecturer on Sociology, Harvard University
Lecturer, Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts Boston
Collective Efficacy in the Neighborhoods of Boston, MA: An Exploration of the Evolution of Cooperation, and the Implications for Understanding Healthy Communities
February 17, 2014
Academic Building A G008, 5:00 PM
Cosponsored with Decker School of Nursing, the Department of Public Administration, and The Center for Applied Community Research and Development (CACRD)
A distinctive facet of human behavior is our capacity for cooperation and the potential to achieve collective goals (i.e., collective efficacy). This has been studied by a variety of disciplines, but the diversity of neighborhoods in large cities has made it possible to closely examine the value of collective efficacy to a community and its residents. Research in this tradition has repeatedly demonstrated the influence that collective efficacy can have for a variety of outcomes relevant to the health and well-being of residents, providing a modern-day illustration of how groups with greater collective efficacy might be favored by natural selection. Using an extensive database describing the people and places of Boston, MA, Dan O’Brien will examine what this evolutionary model can tell us about how collective efficacy works, and why it varies across communities. From this he will explore implications for our understanding of the evolution of cooperation, and how ways it might inform policies, practice, and interventions intended to promote the well-being of local communities.
Dan O’Brien’s research and teaching is focused on the psychology and sociology of urban neighborhoods. Dr. O’Brien has used this multidisciplinary approach to further research on “broken windows,” or the presence of disorder and deterioration in a neighborhood, in a number of directions. He has published papers on: how people perceive and interpret neighborhood disorder; the patterns of behavior that create or eliminate disorder within a neighborhood; and disorder’s relationship with other neighborhood outcomes, like adolescent behavior. He has also done work on how individuals differ in their levels of prosociality (e.g., cooperation, sharing) across neighborhoods. Many of these projects have been done in collaboration with interested city agencies and community groups.
Dr. O’Brien came to BARI from Binghamton University in Binghamton, NY, where he earned his doctorate and was a founding member of the Binghamton Neighborhood Project (BNP), an interdisciplinary program intended to unify researchers, policymakers, and practitioners in the effort to address the challenges of urban life from a scientific perspective.
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