The Virtual Lab


December 5, 2012


Duncan Watts


Microsoft Research New York City


Crowdsourcing sites like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk are increasingly being used by researchers to construct “virtual labs” in which they can conduct behavioral experiments. In this talk, I describe some recent experiments that showcase the advantages of virtual over traditional physical labs, as well as some of the limitations. I then discuss how this relatively new experimental capability may unfold in the near future, along with some implications for social and behavioral science.


Duncan Watts

Duncan Watts is a principal researcher at Microsoft Research and a founding member of the MSR-NYC lab. From 2000-2007, he was a professor of Sociology at Columbia University, and then prior to joining Microsoft, a principal research scientist at Yahoo! Research, where he directed the Human Social Dynamics group . He has also served on the external faculty of the Santa Fe Institute and is currently a visiting fellow at Columbia University and at Nuffield College, Oxford.
His research on social networks and collective dynamics has appeared in a wide range of journals, from Nature, Science, and Physical Review Letters to the American Journal of Sociology and the Harvard Business Review. He is also the author of three books, including Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age (W.W. Norton, 2003) and Everything is Obvious*: Once You Know The Answer (Crown Business, 2011).
He holds a B.Sc. in Physics from the Australian Defence Force Academy, from which he also received his officer’s commission in the Royal Australian Navy, and a Ph.D. in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics from Cornell University.