Areas of Research: computational social science, network science, entrepreneurship, innovation, economic sociology, organizational theory, social psychology.

My current research focuses on how entrepreneurs use peers and rhetoric to navigate sensemaking and stigma following startup failure. I have also recently begun research in the relationship between innovation and ethics in contexts including synthetic biology, clinical trials, and cryptocurrency crowdfunding. I rely primarily on computational social science methods, and am preparing a book on the role of sociology in this influential field.

Organizational Theory

Online Field Experiments: Studying Social Interactions in Context.” Parigi, Paolo, Jessica J. Santana, and Karen S. Cook. Social Psychology Quarterly 2017, Vol. 80, 1-19.

Abstract: Thanks to the Internet and the related availability of “Big Data,” social interactions and their environmental context can now be studied experimentally. In this article, we discuss a methodology that we term the online field experiment to differentiate it from more traditional lab-based experimental designs. We explain how this experimental method can be used to capture theoretically relevant environmental conditions while also maximizing the researcher’s control over the treatment(s) of interest. We argue that this methodology is particularly well suited for social psychology because of its focus on social interactions and the factors that influence the nature and structure of these interactions. We provide one detailed example of an online field experiment used to investigate the impact of the sharing economy on trust behavior. We argue that we are fundamentally living in a new social world in which the Internet mediates a growing number of our social interactions. These highly prevalent forms of social interaction create opportunities for the development of new research designs that allow us to advance our theories of social interaction and social structure with new data sources.

Press Coverage and Other Mentions:

American Marketing Association, San Francisco, August 30, 2017: How to Build Trust in a Digital World.

Stanford Daily, April 4, 2017: Stanford Sociologists Encourage Researchers to Study Human Behavior with Help of Existing Online Communities, Big Data.

Joe Gebbia (Airbnb Founder) TED Talk, February 2016: How Airbnb designs for trust.


Network Science

Investor Commitment to Serial Entrepreneurs: A Multilayer Network Analysis.” Santana, J., Raine Hoover, and Meera Vengadasubbu. Social Networks 2017, Vol. 48, 256-269.

Abstract: Social networks are complex systems composed of interdependent organizations and people with diverse network structures. Understanding network dynamics, such as exchange commitment, requires a methodological toolkit that does not assume away complexity. In this study, we extend a technique for analyzing longitudinal, multilayer network data called network alignment. We introduce a novel metric – intersect proportions – for analyzing similarity between divergent graphs. We demonstrate the application of network alignment and intersect proportions to the context of investor commitment to startups and entrepreneurs. Using this technique, we are able to disentangle exchange commitment across complex networks.


Economic Sociology

Trust and Rational Choice.” Cook, Karen S. and Jessica J. Santana. In Oxford Handbook of Political and Social Trust, by Eric Uslaner (Ed.), 2017, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Abstract: This chapter provides an overview of the rational choice orientation to the study of trust, rooted primarily in economics, political science, and sociology. Conceptualizations of trust that build on a rational choice framework focus on the cognitions that form the basis of judgments of trustworthiness and decisions to place trust in another, as well as the embeddedness of trust relations in networks, groups, and institutions. The strengths of rational choice approaches to trust and their limitations are discussed, and brief comparisons are made with other approaches that have gained popularity in the social sciences (many of which are represented in this volume). Much of the trust we see in society is based on reasoned assessments of the evidence at hand that lead one to evaluate others as trustworthy given past performance, reputational information, and the incentives at play, including those derived from network embeddedness or the institutional context.

Risk Aversion and Engagement in the Sharing Economy.” Santana, J.; Parigi, P. Games 2015, 6, 560-573.

Abstract: The sharing economy is a new online community that has important implications for offline behavior. This study evaluates whether engagement in the sharing economy is associated with an actor’s aversion to risk. Using a web-based survey and a field experiment, we apply an adaptation of Holt and Laury’s (2002) risk lottery game to a representative sample of sharing economy participants. We find that frequency of activity in the sharing economy predicts risk aversion, but only in interaction with satisfaction. While greater satisfaction with sharing economy websites is associated with a decrease in risk aversion, greater frequency of usage is associated with greater risk aversion. This analysis shows the limitations of a static perspective on how risk attitudes relate to participation in the sharing economy.