Sacha Epskamp

Title: Networks within networks: from psychological dynamics to social phenomena


Sacha Epskamp is an assistant professor at the University of Amsterdam, department of Psychological Methods, and former visiting researcher at the complexity institute of Nanyang Technological University and research fellow at the Institute for Advanced studies of the University of Amsterdam. In 2017, Sacha Epskamp completed his PhD on network psychometrics – estimating network models from psychological datasets and equating these to established psychometric modeling techniques. He has implemented these methods in several software packages now routinely used in diverse fields of psychological research. Sacha Epskamp teaches on multivariate statistics and data science, and his research interests involve reproducibility, complexity, time-series modeling, and dynamical systems modeling. In addition to the psychometric society dissertation prize, Sacha Epskamp has received several awards for his research, including the junior scientific reward at CCS 2019.


The study of adverse behavior and mental health warrants an approach that does not stop at the borders of disciplines. To truly grasp why people do the things they do, we need to tackle the problems from all angles and accept (1) that human behavior in isolation is a complex interplay between many factors (psychological, biological, behavioral), and (2) that humans themselves interact with one-another through complex social structures. In this presentation, I will introduce novel directions in psychological research in which behavior is modeled at both the psychological and the social level: networks (psychological) within networks (social). I will present novel research applying such models to understand polarization in societies, with a special emphasis on the case of “Black Pete” in the Netherlands: a Dutch folklore character with racists backgrounds, around which Dutch society has become highly polarized the past decade.