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Department of Sociology

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Brent Simpson

Title: Professor & Chair
Department: Sociology
College of Arts and Sciences
Phone: 803-777-6988
Resources: Curriculum Vitae [pdf]
ResearchGate Profile
Brent SImpson


Brent Simpson is Professor and Chair of Sociology. He received a PhD in Sociology from Cornell in 2001. He is a social psychologist with substantive interests in altruism and prosocial behavior; cooperation collective action and protest; social networks; and inequality and discrimination.


Substantive research interests: social psychology; trust; egoism & altruism; cooperation; collective action; social networks; discrimination; inequality.

Department cluster: Social Psychology

Current projects:

How do radical flanks impact public support for social movements?

In what ways does altruism and generosity pay?

How and when does prosocial behavior spread through populations?

How do networks impact cooperation and how does cooperation, in turn alter networks?

How does discrimination affect performance at work?

What would make Americans more concerned more about the high level of inequality that exists in the U.S.?

How does inequality and segregation affect collective action and how, in turn, does collective action drive continuing inequalities?


I typically teach undergraduate- and graduate-level courses in social psychology, and Introduction to Sociology.

Selected Publications

2020 David Melamed, Brent Simpson, Ashley Harrell, Chris Munn, Jered Abernathy, and Matthew Sweitzer. “Homophily and Segregation in Cooperative Networks.” American Journal of Sociology 125, no. 4 (2020): 1084-1127.

2020 David Melamed, Brent Simpson, and Jered Abernathy. “The Robustness of Reciprocity: Each Form of Reciprocity is Robust to the Presence of Other Forms of Reciprocity.” Science Advances6(23), eaba0504

2020 Brent Simpson and David Melamed. “What Do the Upwardly Mobile Think They Deserve, and Why? A Multi-Method Investigation.” Research in Social Stratification and Mobility 65:1-8.

2020 Kimmo Eriksson, Pontus Strimling, Irina Vartanova, and Brent Simpson. “Generosity Pays: Selfish People Have Fewer Children and Earn Less Money.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 118:532-44.

2018 Harrell, Ashley, David Melamed, and Brent Simpson. “The Strength of Dynamic Ties: The Ability to Break Some Ties Promotes Cooperation in Ties that cannot be Broken.” Science Advances December 5 2018: eaau9109.

 2018  Brent Simpson, Robb Willer, and Matthew Feinberg. “Does Violent Protest Backfire? Testing a Theory of Public Reactions to Activist Violence.” Socius 4:1-14.

2018  Brent Simpson, Ashley Harrell, David Melamed, Nicholas Heiserman and Daniela Negraia. “The Roots of Reciprocity: Gratitude and Reputation in Generalized Exchange Systems.” American Sociological Review 83:88-110.

2018  David Melamed, Ashley Harrell, and Brent Simpson. “Cooperation, Clustering, and Assortative Mixing in Dynamic Networks.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 218: 201715357.

2017  Nicholas Heiserman and Brent Simpson. “High Inequality Increases the Gap in Perceived Merit of the Rich and Poor.” Social Psychology Quarterly 80:243-53.

2017  Brent Simpson and Ozan Aksoy. “Competition and Cumulative Advantage in Collective Action Groups.” Social Science Research 66:1-21.

2017  David Melamed, Brent Simpson, and Ashley Harrell. “Prosocial Orientation Alters Network Dynamics and Fosters Cooperation.” Scientific Reports 7.1:357.

2017  Brent Simpson, Robb Willer and Ashley Harrell. “The Enforcement of Moral Boundaries Promotes Cooperation and Prosocial Behavior in Groups.” Scientific Reports 7: 42844.

2016  Ashley Harrell and Brent Simpson. “The Dynamics of Prosocial Leadership: Power and Influence in Collective Action Groups.”  Social Forces 94: 1283-1308.

2016  David Melamed and Brent Simpson. “Strong Ties Promote the Evolution of Cooperation in Dynamic Networks.” Social Networks 45: 32-44.

2016  Freda B. Lynn, Brent Simpson, Mark H. Walker and Colin Peterson. “Why is the Pack Persuasive? The Effect of Choice Status on Perceptions of Quality.” Sociological Science 3:239-63.

2015  Brent Simpson and Robb Willer. “Beyond Altruism: Sociological Foundations of Cooperation and Prosocial Behavior.”  Annual Review of Sociology 41:43-63.

2014  Brent Simpson, Matthew Brashears, Eric Gladstone and Ashley Harrell. “Birds of Different Feathers Cooperate Together: No Evidence for Altruism Homophily in Networks.” Sociological Science 1:542-64.

2014  Kyle Irwin, Laetitia Mulder, and Brent Simpson. “The Detrimental Effects of Rewards and Punishments on Intra-Group Trust.” Social Psychology Quarterly 75:253-72.

2014  Kimmo Eriksson and Brent Simpson. “Poverty Prefers Company.” Social Psychological and Personality Science 5:319-325.

2013  Kimmo Eriksson and Brent Simpson. “Editorial Decisions may Perpetuate Belief in Invalid Research Findings.” PLoS ONE. 8(9): e73364. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0073364.

2013  Brent Simpson, Ashley Harrell, and Robb Willer. “Hidden Paths from Morality to Social Order: Moral Judgments Promote Prosocial Behavior.” Social Forces 91:1529-1548.

2013  Kyle Irwin and Brent Simpson. “Do Descriptive Norms Solve Social Dilemmas? Conformity and Contributions to Collective Action Groups.” Social Forces 91:1057-1084.

2013  Kimmo Eriksson and Brent Simpson. “The Available Evidence Suggests the Percent Measure Should Not be Used to Study Inequality: Reply to Norton and Ariely.” Judgment and Decision Making 8:395-96..

2012  Brent Simpson, Robb Willer, and Cecilia Ridgeway. “Status Hierarchies and the Organization of Collective Action.” Sociological Theory 30: 149-66.

2012  Kimmo Eriksson and Brent Simpson. “What Do Americans Know About Inequality? It Depends How You Ask Them.”  Judgment and Decision Making 7:741-745.

2012  Davide Barrera and Brent Simpson. “Much Ado about Deception: Consequences of Deceiving Research Participants in the Social Sciences.” Sociological Methods & Research 41: 383-413.

2012  Brent Simpson and Kimmo Eriksson. “A Lay Statistician Explanation of Minority Discrimination.” Social Science Research 41:237-45.

2011  Brent Simpson, Barry Markovsky, and Mike Steketee. “Power and Perception of Social Networks.” Social Networks 33:166-71.

2011  Brent Simpson, Barry Markovsky, and Mike Steketee. “Network Knowledge and the Use of Power.” Social Networks 33:172-76.

2011  Kimmo Eriksson and Brent Simpson. “Perceptions of Unfairness in Allocations between Multiple Recipients.” Cognitive Psychology 62:225-44.

2011  Irena Stepanikova, Jennifer Triplett, and Brent Simpson. “Implicit Racial Bias and Prosocial Behavior.” Social Science Research 40:1186-1195.

2010  Kimmo Eriksson and Brent Simpson. “Emotional Reactions to Losing Explain Gender Differences in Risky Behavior.” Journal of Judgment and Decision Making 5: 159-63.

2009  Suzanne Taylor Sutphin and Brent Simpson. “The Role of Self-Evaluations in Legitimizing Social Inequality.” Social Science Research 38: 609-21.

2009  Brent Simpson and Kimmo Eriksson. “The Dynamics of Contracts and Generalized Trustworthiness.” Rationality & Society 21:59-80.

2008  Kyle Irwin, Tucker McGrimmon, and Brent Simpson. “Sympathy and Social Order.” Social Psychology Quarterly 71:379-97.

2008  Brent Simpson and Robb Willer. “Altruism and Indirect Reciprocity: The Interaction of Person and Situation in Prosocial Behavior.” Social Psychology Quarterly 71: 37-52.

2008  Brent Simpson and Tucker McGrimmon. “Trust and Embedded Markets.” Social Networks 30:1-15.

2007  Brent Simpson, Tucker McGrimmon, and Kyle Irwin. “Are Blacks Really Less Trusting than Whites? Revisiting the Race and Trust Question.” Social Forces 86:525-52.

2006  Brent Simpson. “Social Identity and Cooperation in Social Dilemmas.” Rationality and Society 18:444-70.

2006  Brent Simpson, Kyle Irwin, and Peter Lawrence. “Does a ‘Norm of Self-Interest’ Discourage Prosocial Behavior? Rationality and Quid Pro Quo in Charitable Giving.” Social Psychology Quarterly 69:3296-306.

2006  Brent Simpson. “The Poverty of Trust in the Southern United States.” Social Forces. 84: 1625-38.

2005  Brent Simpson and David Willer. “The Structural Embeddedness of Collective Goods: Connection and Coalitions in Exchange Networks.” Sociological Theory 23: 387-407.

2005  Brent Simpson and Casey Borch. “Does Power Affect Perception in Social Networks?: Two Arguments and an Experimental Test.” Social Psychology Quarterly 68:278-87.

2004  Brent Simpson. “Social Values, Subjective Transformations, and Cooperation in Social Dilemmas.” Social Psychology Quarterly 67:385-95.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.