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Seth Frey


  • Ph.D. in Cognitive Science and Informatics at Indiana University, 2013
  • B.A. in Cognitive Science from UC Berkeley, 2004


I am a cognitive scientist and computational social scientist who studies human decision behavior in complex social environments. My expertise is in computational approaches to self-governance and the cognitive science of strategic behavior.

I am a professor in Communication at UC Davis, in the Computational Communication lab, and an affiliate of the Ostrom Workshop at Indiana University. Previously I studied engineered social systems at Disney Research Zurich, a part of Walt Disney Imagineering, and was a Neukom Fellow at Dartmouth College's Neukom Institute, and a student at the New England Complex Systems Institute. I am a UC graduate, from Berkeley.

My work has appeared in New York Times Magazine, TEDx, BBC Radio, Hacker News, and Nautil.us Magazine. It has been funded by the NSF, NASA, and the JSPS.

Research Focus

I work on data from games, sports, online communities, and theme parks, using approaches of data science, lab experiments, and computational modeling to answer quantitative questions about human organizations, institutions, and communication. Some relevant research keywords include computational social science, strategic behavior, higher-level reasoning, science of cooperatives, Ostrom Workshop, quantitative models of institutional evolution, online games, online communities, self-governance, cooperatives.

Students or aspiring graduate students: My topics are diverse, but they generally have to do with governance technology or the reasoning/cognitive mechanisms of social-scale outcomes. If you are interested in a data science training, particularly its applications at the intersection of communication, cognition, games, complex systems, or any combination of the above keywords, I'd be happy to talk.

If you like being busy and pushing yourself, if you can fake it till you make it, if you read a lot and enjoy thinking about humanity and going down personal research rabbit holes, try imagining yourself with a PhD. 


Selected Publications



  • CMN 212 Web Science Research Methods
  • CMN 213 Simulation Methods in Communication Research