Peter Bearman

Columbia University

Primary Section: 53, Social and Political Sciences
Membership Type:
Member (elected 2014)


Peter Bearman is the Cole Professor of the Social Sciences at Columbia University where he directs the Interdisciplinary Center for Innovative Theories and Empirics (INCITE), co-directs the RWJF Health & Society Scholars Program, and the Mellon Interdisciplinary Training Program for Social Scientists and Humanists. He is a recipient of the NIH Director's Pioneer Award for research directed towards accounting for the increased prevalence of autism. A specialist in network analysis, he co-designed the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. He has also conducted research in historical sociology, including "Relations into Rhetorics: Local Elite Social Structure in Norfolk, England, 1540-1640" (Rutgers, 1993). He is the author of "Doormen" (University of Chicago Press, 2005), an editor of the "Handbook of Analytical Sociology" (Oxford University Press, 2009), After Tobacco (Columbia University Press), and "After the Fall" (Free Press), an oral history of 9/11 and its aftermath. He co-edits a book series on analytical sociology at the Princeton University Press. A graduate of Brown University (BA, 1978), Bearman received his PHD from Harvard University (1985). He has taught at Harvard, UNC-Chapel Hill, NYUAD, and Columbia University. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences.

Research Interests

Peter Bearman is a sociologist whose research spans diverse substantive topics, all of which are linked by a focus on understanding and modeling the relational contexts in which individuals are embedded and how those contexts shape and are shaped by the choices individuals make. A core focus of his work has been on health – especially on understanding adolescent risk behavior, especially sexual risk behavior and STI acquisition. More recently he has focused on the underlying dynamics driving the increased prevalence of autism. In this context he has studied the relationship between increased prevalence and the diffusion of autism awareness, ART and increased autism risk, and has led in the development of population-level data structures that enable one to disentangle social, genetic, and environmental factors implicated in the increased prevalence of autism. He has also worked extensively in the area of social networks and political behavior, the emergence of global networks, large-scale multi-sided conflict, diffusion dynamics, and exchange. Early work developed strategies for the network representation of complex interwoven texts including life-stories. His current work crosses the seams of the social sciences and cognitive social neuroscience and social science and the humanities.

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