Yuan Yuan

40 Ames St · E17-452E, Cambridge, MA 20139 yuan2 [at] mit [dot] edu

Hi, there! My name is Yuan Yuan. I was lucky enough to be selected in the first batch of the Social and Engineering Systems Ph.D. program in Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS) at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I have received multidisciplinary training from my program, including machine learning, statistics, economics, and other social sciences. Now I am a third-year Ph.D. student, who is broadly interested in analyzing big data of human behavior, or computational social science. I find myself especially excited about causal inference, social network analysis, networked experiments, and the application of machine learning to the social sciences. I am a research assistant in MIT Media Lab, advised by Prof. Sandy Pentland.


Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Doctor of Philosophy; Institute for Data, Systems, and Society
Interested in computional social science, causal inference, networked experiments, social network analysis and human cooperation.
August 2016 - Present

Tsinghua University

Bachelor of Engineering (Computer Science) and Bachelor of Arts (Economics)
Graduation with Honors
August 2012 - July 2016


An Interpretable Approach for Social Network Formation Among Heterogeneous Agents

Nature Communications, 2018 [HTML][PDF][Blog]

Authors: Yuan Yuan, Ahmad Alabdulkareem, Alex Pentland

Here we integrate the methods from game theory, machine learning (node embedding), and agent-based modeling to establish a network formation model. We test our model with large-scale empirical networks.

Covered by: [PNAS Journal Club]

Identify and Understand Pay-It-Forward Reciprocity Using Millions of Online Red Packets

Working paper, under review at Nature Human Behaviour

Authors: Yuan Yuan, Tracy Xiao Liu, Chenhao Tan, Jie Tang, Alex Pentland

We utilize the randomness of the observational data of online monetary gifts to identify the causal relationship of receiving gifts and pay-it-forward reciprocity. Through this natural experiment, we find norm reinforcement plays a dominating role of promoting pay-it-forward behavior of online gifts. This work is now under review at Nature Human Behaviour; feel free to contact me if you would love to know more details.

About My Name

I know my name is confusing but let me clarify it here. My family name is Yuan [袁] but I do not actually know what it means. The most famous person in Chinese history with the same family name is Shikai Yuan: he was the last emperor in the history of China, but only for 83 days unfortunately. My given name is Yuan [源], which means the source of a river or stream. My family name and given name just somehow have the same pronunciation. In the language system of Chinese, many characters (words) have the same pronunciation. How to pronounce Yuan (either [源] or [袁]): see 2:52. Common wrong pronunciation: click me.

Last update: Feb 25, 2019