How Social Science Advances Our Understanding of Pandemics

June 23rd, 2021 - 1:00 pm to 2:15 pm PT

Scientific research, innovation, and evidence have contributed to COVID-19 mitigation and response. As parts of the globe emerge from a second year of life under pandemic, to what extent have social and behavioral science insights illuminated our understanding of the alignment between human behavior and the recommendations of epidemiologists and public health experts? What gaps remain in our data and knowledge? Pandemics have no respect for borders. Yet borders – both at national and sub-national levels – play an undeniable role in determining population vulnerability and resilience in the face of infectious disease. In the United States, almost all aspects of the COVID pandemic have been polarized. Why? How can cross-national and historical analyses inform our perspective of how citizens learn from and engage with scientists, experts, and each other? What do we know, and what remains unsettled, regarding social and cultural influences on science communication, decision making under uncertainty, leadership, governance, the psychological burdens of stress and anxiety, the friction between individual and collective interests, and behavior more generally? Join Peter Loewen, Adrian Raftery, Prerna Singh, and Robb Willer in conversation with Alexis Madrigal as they consider such questions and appraise the state of the art in social and behavioral science research, essential if we intend to prepare for and respond to future pandemics more effectively.

This event is produced by by CASBS in partnership with CIFAR, the Pandemic Action Network, the Public Policy Forum, SAGE Publishing, and the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (PACS).

View participant bios & photos: https://bit.ly/3isL7pF

This is episode 16 in CASBS’s webcast series Social Science for a World in Crisis. Explore here.


  • Alexis Madrigal - Staff writer, The Atlantic Co-founder, The COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic Co-host, KQED Forum
  • Peter Loewen - Professor of Political Science and Global Affairs & Public Policy University of Toronto, CASBS fellow, 2018-19
  • Adrian Raftery - Boeing International Professor of Statistics and Sociology University of Washington, CASBS fellow, 2017-18
  • Prerna Singh - Mahatma Gandhi Associate Professor of Political Science and International & Public Affairs; Associate Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences Brown University, CASBS fellow, 2020-21
  • Robb Willer - Professor of Sociology; Director, Polarization and Social Change Lab Stanford University, CASBS fellow 2012-13, 2020-21