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Jay Van Bavel is a Professor of Psychology & Neural Science at New York University, an affiliate at the Stern School of Business in Management and Organizations, and Director of the Social Identity & Morality Lab. He is the co-author of The Power of Us: Harnessing Our Shared Identities to Improve Performance, Increase Cooperation, and Promote Social Harmony. Prior to joining NYU, Jay completed his PhD at the University of Toronto and a Postdoctoral Fellowship at The Ohio State University.


From neurons to social networks, Jay’s research examines how collective concerns—group identities, moral values, and political beliefs—shape the mind, brain, and behavior. His work addresses issues of group identity, social motivation, cooperation, implicit bias, moral judgment, decision-making, and social media. He studies these issues using a combination of neuroimaging, lesion patients, social cognitive tasks, economic tasks, cross-cultural surveys, and computational social science.


Jay has published over 100 academic publications and co-authors a mentoring column, called Letters to Young Scientists, for Science Magazine. He has written about his research for the New York Times, BBC, Scientific American, Wall Street Journal, LA Times, and the Washington Post and his work has appeared in academic papers as well as in the US Supreme Court and Senate. His research was also featured in TEDx and TED-Ed videos and he has consulted with the White House, United Nations, European Union, and World Health Organization on issues related to his research.


Jay has given talks at dozens of the Psychology Departments and Business Schools, as well as academic conferences, professional events, and non-academic organizations (including the World Science Festival). He received the NYU Golden Dozen Teaching Award for teaching courses on Social Psychology, Social Neuroscience, Attitudes and Evaluation, Intergroup Relations, Group Identity, Moral Psychology, Professional Development, and Introduction to Psychology.

His research has received several awards, including the Young Investigator Award for distinguished contributions in social neuroscience from the Society for Social Neuroscience, the Young Scholars Award for outstanding achievements in social and personality psychology from the Foundation for Personality and Social Psychology, the Janet T. Spence Award for Transformative Early Career Contributions from the Association for Psychological Science, the F.J. McGuigan Early Career Investigator Prize from the American Psychological Foundation, the Gordon Allport Intergroup Relations Prize and the SPSP Wegner Theoretical Innovation Prize.

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Robertson, C. E., Pröllochs, N., Schwarzenegger, K., Pärnamets, P., Van Bavel, J. J., & Feuerriegel, S. (2023). Negativity drives online news consumption. Nature Human Behaviour, 1-11. [PDF]

Rathje, S., Roozenbeek, J., Van Bavel, J. J., & van der Linden, S. (2023). Accuracy and social motivations shape judgements of (mis) information. Nature Human Behaviour, 1-12. [PDF]

Van Bavel, J. J., Cichocka, A., Capraro, V., Sjåstad, H., Nezlek, J. B., Pavlović, T., Alfano, M., Gelfand, M. J., Azevedo, F., Birtel, M. D., Cislak, A., Lockwood, P. L., Ross, R. M., Abts, K., Agadullina, E., Aruta, J. J. B., Besharati, S. N., Bor, A., Choma, B. L., … Boggio, P. S. (2022). National identity predicts public health support during a global pandemic. Nature Communications, 13(1), 517. [PDF]

Van Bavel, J. J., Rathje, S., Harris, E., Robertson, C., & Sternisko, A. (2021). How social media shapes polarization. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 25(11), 913-916 [PDF]

*Rathje, S., Van Bavel, J. J., & van der Linden, S. (2021). Out-group animosity drives engagement on social media. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [PDF]


Gollwitzer, A., *Martel, C., *Brady, W. J., Parnamets, P., Freedman, I. G., Knowles, E. D., & Van Bavel, J.J. (2020). Partisan differences in physical distancing are linked to health outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nature Human Behavior, 4, 1186-1197. [PDF]


Finkel, E. J., Bail, C. A., Cikara, M., Ditto, P. H., IIyengar, S., Klar, S., Mason, L., McGrath, M. C., Nyhan, B., Rand, D., Skitka, L., Tucker, J. A., Van Bavel, J.J., Wang, C. S. & Druckman, J. N. (2020). Political sectarianism in America: A poisonous cocktail of othering, aversion, and moralization. Science. [PDF]


Van Bavel, J.J.,, Baicker, K., Boggio, P. S., Capraro, V., Cichocka, A., Cikara, M., Crockett, M. J., Crum, A. J., Douglas, K. M., Druckman, J. N. Drury, J., Dube, O., Ellemers, N., Finkel, E. J., Fowler, J. H., Gelfand, M., Han, S., Haslam, S. A., Jetten, J., Kitayama, S., Mobbs, D., Napper, L. E., Packer, D. J., Pennycook, G., Peters, E., Petty, R. E., Rand, D. G., Reicher, S. D., Schnall, S., Shariff, A., Skitka, L. J., Smith, S. S., Sunstein, C. R., Tabri, N., Tucker, J. A., van der Linden, S., Van Lange, P. A. M., Weeden, K. A., Wohl, M. J. A., Zaki, J., Zion, S. & Willer, R. (2020). Using social and behavioural science to support COVID-19 pandemic response. Nature Human Behaviour. [PDF]

Van Bavel, J.J. & Pereira, A. (2018). The partisan brain: An identity-based model of political belief. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 22, 213-224. [PDF]


Brady, W.J., Wills, J.A., Jost, J.T., Tucker, J.A., & Van Bavel, J.J. (2017). Emotion shapes the diffusion of moralized content in social networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 1-6. [PDF]


Dikker, S., Wan, L., Davidesco, I., Kaggen, L., Oostrik, M., McClintock, J., Rowland, J., Van Bavel, J.J., Ding, M., & Poeppel, D. (2017). Brain-to-brain synchrony tracks real-world dynamic group interactions in the classroom. Current Biology, 27, 1375-1380. [PDF]


Van Bavel, J.J., FeldmanHall, O., & Mende-Siedlecki, P. (2015). The neuroscience of moral cognition: From dual process to dynamic systems. Current Opinion in Psychology, 6, 167-172. [PDF]


Cikara, M., & Van Bavel, J.J. (2014). The neuroscience of intergroup relations: An integrative review. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 9, 245-274. [PDF]

Van Bavel, J.J., Packer, D.J., & Cunningham, W.A. (2008). The neural substrates of in-group bias: A functional magnetic resonance imaging investigation. Psychological Science, 19, 1131-1139. [PDF]



My program of research over the past two decades explores the dynamics of shared, social identities (Van Bavel & Packer, 2021). My work is grounded in the notion that our sense of self is derived from our social environment. We flexibly form social identities with groups, from partisan to university to national affiliations, and these identities have a profound influence on how we think and act in the world—providing a lens through which we interpret the social world. My lab examines what happens to people psychologically when they define themselves in terms of group memberships, from our most rapid evaluations and verbal expressions to belief updating and behavior.


Drawing upon research in social psychology and cognitive neuroscience, as well as the social sciences more generally, I have been focused on a set of core principles about social identity. This has led my work to evolve from using implicit measures of social judgments and functional neuroimaging of face perception to economic cooperative games and linguistic analysis of social media posts, and, more recently, to studying the movement of millions of people and using international surveys of public health behavior during the pandemic. By triangulating across methods, I have developed a deeper understanding of how identity shapes human cognition and action across a wide range of domains.



You can read a full description of my research program on my lab website.


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Jay has been invited to speak at many psychology departments and business schools (e.g., Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, Cambridge, Zurich), international conferences (e.g., TEDx, Aspen Ideas Festival, World Health Organization, World Science Festival), organizations (e.g., New York Times, International Science Council, National Academy of Medicine), government agencies (e.g., U.S. White House,  Senate and House or Representatives), and Fortune 500 companies (e.g., Amazon, Microsoft, General Mills, Uber, Merck, Gilead).


"The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled"


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NYU Abu Dhabi Social Chameleons course taught with Tessa West, 2017

I believe that higher education should be focused on developing passionate, critical, independent and creative thought, and the transmission of knowledge should be in the service of developing these skills. In the classroom (and occasionally, from an elevator), I try to communicate the core issues and controversies within an area in an interactive fashion, drawing students into the material though exercises and debate. This experience provides a deeper understanding of the material and encourages students to think critically about how scientific conclusions depend on the research process. In addition, I try to teach case studies of scientific controversy on topical issues to illustrate that science is not simply an assembly of facts but a method for developing and testing ideas. In my experience, this approach has led naturally to classroom discussions where students share their own insights and critical perspectives.



Harnessing Our Shared Identities to Improve Performance, Increase Cooperation, and Promote Social Harmony

The Power of Us compellingly debunks many of the myths that have arisen not only around social identity research but also around social psychology as a whole. Of these, the most enduring are those that paint groups as inevitable sites for corruption of self and loss of reason. The triumph of this book is how it shows that this framing is not only wholly wrong but also dangerously misleading…if we are to have functional and resilient organizations, institutions, and societies, we must understand and draw from the power of collective mind.”

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For all lab-related and teaching inquiries, including inquiries about joining the lab, please see the contact page on my lab website.

For podcast or event inquiries related to The Power of Us, please fill out this brief form. For other inquiries related to The Power of Us, please fill out the form on my book website.

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