SFI Chair of the Faculty Jennifer Dunne has announced that Mirta Galesic has been selected as SFI's next Cowan Chair in Human Social Dynamics. Galesic plans to join SFI in January 2015 as a full-time resident professor for a five-year term.

Currently a research scientist with the Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Galesic holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Zagreb, Croatia, and an M.S. in survey methodology from a joint program at the University of Maryland and the University of Michigan. 

She is interested in questions related to how people make judgments about their social environments, showing that apparent biases in social cognition can be explained by simple models of the interplay between the statistical structure of social worlds and the way people sample information from them. She also investigates how information search determines the success of social learning strategies when applied in different types of social networks and in changing environments, and she has additional interests in risk and uncertainty in complex systems, particularly in finance and medicine, and in the origins of human sociality.

"Galesic will extend SFI’s intellectual landscape in new, exciting directions," says Dunne. "Her expertise and research in psychology, social cognition, decision making, and uncertainty will synergize with the types of research currently pursued by resident faculty, post-docs, and external faculty."

In 2010, SFI’s founding president George Cowan endowed the George A. and Helen Dunham Cowan Chairs in Human Social Dynamics to attract leading social scientists to SFI who have applied rigorous quantitative methods in their fields and who offer perspectives that are complementary to existing SFI research.

Three inaugural Cowan Professors will end their three-year part-time appointments with SFI in 2014: Mahzarin Banaji, the Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics at Harvard; Robert Boyd, a professor of anthropology at Arizona State University; and Ricardo Hausmann, director of the Center for International Development at Harvard.

“Bringing these three scientists to SFI has been a great success," says Dunne. “Their research agendas address a diversity of interesting topics -- experimental psychology, the evolution of social behavior, and economics and development -- and they have brought new ideas and methods to SFI.”

Galesic's selection marks a shift in the focus of the Cowan Chair program. "In the past we looked to bring eminent, later-career scholars to the Institute for shorter periods of time," Dunne says. "For this next period of Cowan Chair funding, we decided to bring a promising early-career scientist to be a full-time resident professor, someone who will both augment our research and be immersed in the daily life of the Institute, including outreach, mentoring, grant-writing, and meeting organization."