Visiting Speaker
Nick Obradovich
Research Scientist of Scalable Cooperation Group at MIT and Harvard University’s Belfer Center
Using Big Data and Causal Inference to Answer Fundamental Social Questions
Apr 18, 2018
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4:30 pm
177 Huntington Ave
11th floor
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Many of the most basic questions in social science remain unanswered. For example, does the weather actually alter human emotional states? On first glance, it sure seems to. But existing empirical evidence on this question is inconclusive due to factors -- like selection, confounding, and previously limited data -- that make causal inference quite difficult. To address these issues, we leverage tools of causal inference drawn from climate econometrics and employ over three and a half billion social media posts from tens of millions of individuals from both Facebook and Twitter between 2009 and 2016. We find that meteorological exposure alters emotional expressions in a variety of ways. In this talk, I'll walk through the factors that bedevil estimation of the causal relationship between weather variables and mood, outline our identification strategy, and discuss the magnitude and social significance of our results.

about the speaker
Nick Obradovich is a research scientist at the MIT Media Lab in the Scalable Cooperation Group, an interdisciplinary lab of social, natural, and computer scientists focused on addressing large-scale cooperation challenges. He is an affiliate at Harvard University’s Belfer Center, where he completed my postdoctoral training in 2017. He is also an affiliate at the Harvard University Center for the Environment and am a Human-Environmental Systems Fellow at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He received my PhD in political science from the University of California San Diego in 2016. In his work, he combines his interests in climate change and human behavior with my affinity for social scientific and computational methods. His primary research explores the societal impacts of climate change. He have studied the potential for climatic changes to alter rates of democratic turnover and human sleep, mood, and physical activity patterns. In my current work, He is examining potential climate impacts on mental health, local governance, and human population distributions. Another branch of his research focuses on climate change attitudes. A recent project examined the role of collective versus personal responsibility in climate-related political behaviors. Another investigates how climate change political attitudes may be altered by exposure to extreme weather. He has also identified political hurdles to climate policies in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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