Research Seminar: Organizational Development as Generative Entrenchment with Cody Moser and Paul Smaldino

Wednesday, August 30th at 12pm ET

ProSocial Research

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Research Seminar and Q&A with the Speakers


A critical task for organizations is how to structure themselves to efficiently allocate information and resources to individuals tasked with solving sub-components of the organization’s central problems. Despite this criticality, the processes by which organizational structures form remain largely opaque. Here, we propose that a broad understanding of organizational formation can be aided by appealing to generative entrenchment, a theory from developmental biology that helps explain why phylogenetically diverse animals appear similar as embryos. Drawing inferences from generative entrenchment and applying it to organizational differentiation, we argue that the reason many organizations appear structurally similar is due to core informational restraints on individual actors beginning at the top and descending to the bottom of informational hierarchies, which in-turn reinforces these structures. We further argue such processes can lead to the emergence of a variety of group-level traits, an important but undertheorized class of phenomena in cultural evolution.

About the Speakers:

Cody is a fourth year PhD student at the University of California, Merced in the Department of Cognitive & Information Sciences. His research examines the origins of individual and institutional behavior where he uses approaches from complex systems and evolutionary dynamics to study collective problem-solving, systems collapse, cultural evolution, and innovation. He is primarily interested in the processes leading to the evolution of structure, how groups of agents organize themselves to leverage information in their environments, and what arrangements make structures vulnerable to collapse.

Paul is an Associate Professor of Cognitive & Information Sciences at the University of California, Merced and an External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute. His research examines how behaviors emerge and evolve in response to social, cultural, and ecological pressures, as well as how those pressures can themselves evolve. Much of his work involves building and analyzing mathematical models and computer simulations. His current projects involve the emergence of identity signaling strategies, the role of identity in social learning, socioecological influences on personality development, the role of diversity in innovation, the cultural evolution of analogies, and the population dynamics of scientific norms.Link to our related paper: