Social Mood Conference  |  Socionomics Foundation

Researcher and lecturer to speak at 4th Annual Social Mood Conference

Matt Lampert is a graduate of the University of Cambridge where he is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology. Lampert served as the associate director of the Socionomics Institute before becoming the Institute’s first research fellow and enrolling at Cambridge.

SF: What is it about social mood that you find the most interesting in your socionomics research?
Matt Lampert: Socionomic theory can feel very counterintuitive. As a result, learning to think socionomically is often a substantial challenge. But what is even more difficult than learning to think socionomically? Learning to act socionomically. There is a big difference. Acting socionomically is tough because at crucial junctures your actions typically will be the opposites of what your peers will be doing. You will be selling when they are buying, winding down your operations when they are gearing up theirs, preparing for the next leg down when they are expecting perpetual prosperity, and so on. It can feel very lonely and isolating, and it becomes easy to second-guess yourself. That is a testament to the strength of the impulse to join the herd, and I find it fascinating. But it is also a reason why the Social Mood Conference is so important. In addition to the great speakers and program content, you get to spend a whole day surrounded by people who see the world through the same socionomic spectacles as you. That jolt of community can give you a renewed sense of confidence to go forward and make intelligent, socionomically-informed decisions and once again enjoy the perks of being a contrarian.
SF: You are working on your Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge. What is the topic of your dissertation?
Matt Lampert: Social scientists are incredibly good at forecasting the future as long as the trends of the future resemble the trends of the present. Where social science struggles is predicting change, predicting when the trends of the future will depart from the trends of the present. One popular lens through which social scientists have viewed change and persistence in recent years is ‘path dependence,’ which in social science has essentially come to mean the study of how and why social systems, once on a particular trajectory, tend to stay there. But the concept has its roots in probability theory where it has a much broader meaning. There, it refers to systems whose past developments enable and constrain possible future developments. Readers familiar with the Elliott wave model may recognize it as a model of a path-dependent system from that description. The goal of my dissertation is to broaden and pluralize what path dependence means in social science in order to incorporate socionomic theory and the Elliott wave model. Doing so will give social scientists a much richer arsenal to combat the difficulties of forecasting and consistently accounting for changes in the trajectories of social systems.
SF: Have there been any surprises in your research?
Matt Lampert: Path dependence initially got my attention because it seemed like a classic example of Newtonian physics-based thinking that has made forecasting change, or even consistently explaining social change after-the-fact, very difficult for social scientists. I thought I could use it as a foil when I introduced academic audiences to socionomic theory and the wave model. But as I learned more about path dependence and its intellectual history, I realized that there was a vast expanse of non-Newtonian path-dependent systems that basically had been ignored in social science. It has been a lot of fun making the case to broaden our understanding of path dependence in social science to make room for tools like the Wave Principle that allow us to model and anticipate social junctures that would be extremely difficult to foresee otherwise.
SF: What do you plan to discuss at the Social Mood Conference?

Matt Lampert: The 1990s was the Information Age, and perhaps we now live in the Age of Big Data. Yet despite the availability of more information than ever before in human history, we are consistently blindsided by dramatic events: the financial crisis, Arab Spring, H1N1 pandemic and renewal of tensions in Europe to name a few. Having the data is one thing. Understanding what it means is another. My speech is about using socionomics to cut through the noise and identify signals that can give you an edge in forecasting and strategic planning. It is about analyzing and understanding data from a socionomic perspective so that you will have a shot at seeing around the corner and preparing for what’s next.

SF: What is one of the biggest errors you think people make when they plan for the future?

Matt Lampert: In socionomics, we like to talk about the pitfalls associated with assuming that a trend will continue indefinitely. This kind of linear trend extrapolation can be extremely costly, and it can also be extremely difficult to overcome, particularly at the exact moment when recognizing the potential for change would be most valuable. Can you imagine someone standing up in the middle of a sales strategy meeting and saying, “Folks: our revenue is at an all-time high, our industry is growing at an unprecedented rate and our CEO was just featured on the cover of a major business magazine. This is horrible! We’re probably close to a major peak. It’s likely going downhill from here. Let’s create a plan for how we’re going to survive, thrive and capitalize on a changing and challenging business environment”? Even if someone did have the foresight to recognize a probable trend extreme in that situation, imagine how difficult it would be for that person to get buy-in from colleagues and key company decision-makers. Seeing around the corner is difficult on its own, but it’s not enough to be successful. To truly have the socio edge, socionomics needs to be in your whole team’s repertoire, a part of the group culture. They need to understand it, use it in their decision-making and be prepared to act on its conclusions, even if that means bucking conventional wisdom and industry trends. We invite our whole team from the Institute to the Social Mood Conference, and not just so that they can help to run the day. It gives them a powerful dose of unconventional, socionomically-infused wisdom and makes them realize that they are part of something big.

SF: Why are you looking forwarding to talking about your research at the Social Mood Conference?
Matt Lampert: The conference is the most fun I get to have all year. Imagine that you’re in line to check-in at a hotel and strike up a conversation with the person behind you. It turns out that he is a former architect who used socionomics to anticipate a decline in residential development and changed his career path as a result. Then, you are going through the buffet at lunch and the person in front of you is a huge fan of The Socionomist. He’s read every issue and is practically an encyclopedia of socionomic information. You sit down in a banquet hall and the person to your left is an analyst who uses social mood data to forecast DVD sales. As you’re hearing about all the new developments in her field, a stock market technician behind you chimes in with some ideas on how she might be able to incorporate the Elliott wave model more deeply into her analysis. Just one of these conversations would make my day, and I get to have them all day long in a fast-paced, energized environment. Getting to present some research from the podium is just the icing on the cake.
SF: Thanks, Matt. We look forward to hearing from you and the rest of the speakers at the 4th Annual Social Mood Conference on April 5th in Atlanta.


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