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Cognitive Science Professor’s First Book Released by Princeton University Press

November 6, 2023

Cognitive science Professor Paul Smaldino has astronomically high hopes for his first book.

“I hope literally everyone reads this book,” Smaldino said.

Modeling Social Behavior” is a textbook, so it probably won’t make the New York Times bestseller list any time soon, but it is definitely going to educate generations of students who want to better understand social and cultural dynamics.

Since 2016, Smaldino has been teaching UC Merced students how to understand human behavior and society by building mathematical models and computer simulations.

When he joined the campus, he wanted to develop courses on modeling social behavior.

“But there was no textbook that covered the material I wanted to cover. So, I started developing my own notes for the course, which eventually turned into this book,” he said.

He began outlining chapters in the summer of 2018 and worked on the book off and on, sometimes in high-output bursts. He had taught a number of workshops on modeling at other institutions and at conferences, which he said helped shape the effectiveness of certain teaching approaches and the inclusion of certain material.

He finished a complete draft in early 2022, and Princeton University Press released “Modeling Social Behavior” for sale in October.

He hopes his book will inspire others to join him in his efforts and address a challenge in the field.

“I am trying to develop dynamic theories about social dynamics and cultural evolution, and I need more colleagues and collaborators in this effort,” Smaldino explained. “There is a lack of training in formal modeling in the social sciences, especially outside economics, where models tend to have a narrower scope and don't tend to explore dynamics. I wanted to help remedy that.”

Interested students can learn directly from Smaldino by taking his course by the same name (Modeling Social Behavior), either COGS 122 for undergraduates or COGS 222 for graduate students.