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Enhancing Social Studies at MIT Sloan School of Management

Advancing Social Studies at MIT Sloan


In today’s digital age, social networks play a significant role in shaping our lives. From connecting with friends and family to influencing our buying decisions, social media has become a powerful tool. But have you ever wondered about the economic and political effects of these networks? Or how misinformation spreads and affects public opinion? These are the questions that Dean Eckles, an associate professor in the MIT Sloan School of Management, has dedicated his career to studying.

Exploring the Influence of Social Networks:

Dean Eckles began his journey into social studies during an internship at Facebook, where he became the primary data scientist for the platform’s news feeds. Being a doctoral candidate studying social influence, Eckles had the perfect opportunity to delve into questions like how people influence each other online and the effects of algorithmic tweaks on content-ranking. His findings revealed that showing people more photos increased their engagement, which in turn impacted the experiences of their friends. His work highlighted the compounding effects of social networks, raising questions about how to account for these effects across the network.

Examining the Formation and Shape of Social Networks:

As an affiliate faculty member of the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society, Eckles explores various aspects of social networks. One of his studies focused on the connection between social mobility and economic success. It showed that individuals who moved between U.S. states, changed high schools, or attended college out of state developed more robust social networks, which correlated with greater economic prosperity. These findings shed light on the importance of social networks in shaping an individual’s economic trajectory.

Understanding Causal Inference:

Eckles also devotes his research to causal inference, a field that explores cause-and-effect connections. This area of study is challenging when it comes to human behavior because individuals make decisions based on their goals and strategically elect situations. However, learning about causality is vital in various scientific disciplines. Eckles’ research focuses on developing methods and techniques to identify cause-and-effect relationships, providing valuable insights into complex human behavior.

Related Facts:

  • Dean Eckles received tenure from MIT last year, a testament to his impactful research and teaching.
  • He holds five degrees from Stanford University, including a BA in philosophy, a BS in symbolic systems, an MS in symbolic systems, and a PhD in communication.
  • Eckles’ work on causal inference aligns with the research interests of other MIT faculty, such as economists Victor Chernozhukov and Alberto Abadie.

Key Takeaway:

Dean Eckles’ work at MIT Sloan School of Management is advancing our understanding of social networks and their impact on various aspects of society. His research sheds light on the economic and political effects of social networks, the spread of misinformation, and the formation of social networks. By studying causal inference, Eckles equips researchers with tools to identify cause-and-effect relationships in complex human behavior.


Dean Eckles’ tenure at MIT Sloan School of Management has opened doors to groundbreaking research in social studies. His multidisciplinary background and expertise in social networks and causal inference provide valuable insights into the complex nature of human behavior. As social networks continue to shape the world, Eckles’ research contributes to our understanding of their effects, offering opportunities for positive change.

Denk Liu
Denk Liu
Denk Liu is an honest person who always tells it like it is. He's also very objective, seeing the situation for what it is and not getting wrapped up in emotion. He's a regular guy - witty and smart but not pretentious. He loves playing video games and watching action movies in his free time.

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