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EVoS Seminar Series: Collective Efficacy and Neighborhood Adaptability to COVID-19 with Sage Gibbons

March 28, 2022 @ 5:15 pm - 7:15 pm


Zoom Link: https://binghamton.zoom.us/j/92483026611

Just as genetic traits are selected based on their fit with the environment, behaviors within a lifetime are also shaped in an adaptive process by physical and social surroundings. In humans, these behaviors – as well as the beliefs and expectations that underpin them – are transmitted socially to form cultural traits that can be inherited and reinforced over generations. 

In urban neighborhoods, poverty and crime can, over time, weaken social cohesion and normative expectations for intervention (i.e. “collective efficacy”) such that communities become trapped in a self-fulfilling prophecy of concentrated disadvantage for decades. On the other hand, communities able to nurture the capacity to actively resist disorder can stave off the worst outcomes and even meaningfully improve their environment despite other structural challenges.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic provided a unique test of the adaptability of Boston communities when faced with a novel threat. Of the new social norms created based on public health guidelines, social distancing was one of the most universally adopted. Although easily enforced in businesses and other public institutions, monitoring and enforcement in private residences is much more difficult. Thus, maintaining social distancing in these spaces fell mostly to the public writ-large. 

Using 911 noise complaints and other big data, I examine how Bostonians acted as the “eyes and ears” of the city to effectively crowdsource the identification and enforcement of social distancing violations and the effect these gatherings had on weekly COVID-19 transmission. I discuss this in relation to collective efficacy theory and how the capacity to maintain is interwoven with the capacity to adapt.

About the Speaker:

Sage Gibbons is completing his Masters of Science in Urban Informatics at Northeastern University’s School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs. He is a researcher with the Boston Area Research Initiative and with the non-profit Prosocial World which uses evolutionary science to help groups become more successful, healthy, and adaptive. More importantly, Sage is a Binghamton and EvoS alumni and is excited to occupy the other side of the EvoS stage for the first time.

Series Overview:

The EvoS (Evolutionary Studies) seminar series brings distinguished speakers and alumni to campus each semester to share their work on all aspects of humanity and the natural world from an evolutionary perspective.

While visiting campus, the speakers meet with faculty and researchers to share ideas and explore opportunities for collaboration. In many respects, the seminar series is the hub of EvoS, both as an educational program and a pathway for interdisciplinary research.

EvoS Seminars are held on Mondays from 5:15 pm – 7:15 pm EST throughout the semester when classes are in session. The seminars are open to the campus and local community.

Lectures are typically less than an hour, followed by Q&A by guests, and a longer discussion with students.


March 28, 2022
5:15 pm - 7:15 pm