Professor Gigi Foster
University of New South Wales
Sydney, Australia

Function and area of knowledge

Deep and enduring curiosity about the influence of groups on individual behaviour has driven my research agenda over the past twenty years. This interest has underpinned my explorations in peer effects, expectation formation, social norms, gender roles, identity, education policy, corruption, and time use, using econometric, theoretical, and experimental methods. The unifying theory first presented in 2013 in An Economic Theory of Greed, Love, Groups, and Networks with my long-time coauthor Paul Frijters was in part the output of this curiosity, applied to the goal of improving our understanding of human nature and potential in order to enable the design of policy and institutions in ways that maximally promote human thriving.

Physical location

Sydney, Australia

Areas of Mentorship Interest

Topics for Mentorship

I envision working in the Enlightenment mentorship program with young researchers who share my curiosity about the relation between individuals and their groups and my commitment to delivering actionable insights that can inform public policy. My supervision would suit students from across the social sciences, and in particular economists, psychologists, and sociologists, who are seeking to diversify and expand their conceptual and empirical approaches and to improve and uplift the real-world relevance of their research. While not required, co-supervision with professors in affiliated disciplines would deliver a particularly rich and rewarding experience for students.

Envisaged activities/program

I envision beginning a student’s journey as I typically do with full-time higher degree by research students I supervise in person, by discussing on a broad canvas their deep intellectual interests and how they relate to the core themes of social influence and policy relevance. Further structure for the student’s emerging program of research will be drawn from my existing oeuvre of work, in particular the broad social scientific treatise noted above and whichever more narrowly focussed papers are most relevant to the student’s topic area. Emphasis will be placed on the ‘stretch goal’ of delivering a conceptual extension, refinement, or (even better) revolution of existing work, rather than limiting the student’s work to an application of an existing conceptual framework. Following half a dozen online interactive sessions over a period of two to three months interspersed with directed reading, a student would be expected to produce an initial specific research proposal in the broad area of groups and behaviour with the potential to improve policy design. The remainder of the mentorship would be focussed on expanding the student’s library of knowledge through engaging with core texts, refining and then implementing the research proposal, and supporting the development of the student’s capacity as a broad thinker and researcher. Once initial research proposals are formed, I envision students meeting online as a group for two hours roughly once a fortnight for discussion of material and their research progress, coupled with monthly one-on-one meetings with me.

Other items of interest / links to recommended reading

Applicant requirements

– Bachelor’s degree in a relevant discipline (Master’s level work/degree even better) – Pragmatic, intrinsically motivated, and optimistic outlook – Commitment to using research to serve the broad social good

Application process

– Contact with your transcript, CV, and three pages (1500 words) describing your motivation, your research interests, and how they relate to social influence and policy – Attend an initial online reception/information session on Friday 20 October 2023 from 4 to 6 PM Sydney time.