Skip to main content

Prosocial Behaviors in the Digital Age

  • Pro Social Team


This team has generated over $4,713,764 in grants and 94 publications thus far, including 2 books. Research topics include the Social Media TestDrive project, fact-checking dynamics on Reddit, diverse participation in online education, underestimating others' willingness to help, and encouraging bystander interventions on social media.

In June 2021, the Prosocial Project received a $1,197,740 National Science Foundation grant (Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE): Core Programs) for their project: “Deterring objectionable behavior and fostering emergent norms in social media conversations,” 9/21-8/25. The team includes 4 Prosocial team leaders/members--Drew Margolin (PI), Natalie Bazarova, Vanessa Bohns, Rene Kizilcec--and their former postdoc, Dominic DiFranzo.

About the Project 

The capacity of digital technologies to facilitate both anti-social and prosocial behaviors has become a pressing challenge with significant science and policy implications. How do we stem the tide of negative interactions while actively promoting positive interaction? Understanding effective mechanisms for encouraging prosocial behavior in digital spheres requires disciplinary breadth and depth. To advance Cornell’s leadership in this area, the proposed set of studies links scholars with expertise across an array of topics, disciplines, and methodologies. It permits integration of existing work among scholars while simultaneously creating opportunities for new and innovative collaboration across campus. Our team’s expertise in knowledge transfer facilitates the integration of new research insights into practice and policy on and off campus.

About the Team

Natalie Bazarova



Department Office: 479 Mann Library

CCSS Office: 747 Rhodes Hall


Drew Margolin



Department Office: 472 Mann Library

CCSS Office: 740 Rhodes Hall


Vanessa Bohns

Project Member

Organizational Behavior

Department Office: 394 Ives Hall

CCSS Office: 745 Rhodes Hall


René Kizilcec

Project Member

Information Science

CCSS Office: 737 Rhodes Hall


Janis Whitlock

Project Member

Bronfenbrenner Center

Department Office: 202A Beebe Hall

CCSS Office: 743 Rhodes Hall


Janis Whitlock

Prosocial Project

  • Project Updates

    • Bazarova, DiFranzo, and Whitlock, along with collaborators Amanda Purington and Yoon Choi, are currently building interactive modules for the Social Media TestDrive, an innovative online platform for digital literacy education in youth. They have partnered with Cornell PRYDE and Common Sense Education in developing, evaluating, and disseminating TestDrive modules.
    • Margolin and Whitlock (BCTR) have been leading the team’s efforts to develop a new grant proposal to support a study of false information dissemination on social media, with a focus on how to find effective ways for individuals to correct false information posted online. Their approach focuses on the tension between the prosocial benefit of making information more accurate and the potentially anti-social cost of creating hostile, conflict-oriented discourse online.
    • Bohns (Organizational Behavior) and Kizilicec (Information Science) have been working to determine best directions for the review paper focusing on prosocial behaviors and empathy. Two research questions have been posed: 1) What factors influence whether people respond to a moral violation with empathy for the person who has been harmed vs. moral outrage at the person who has done the harming? 2) Do people underestimate the efficacy of empathic expressions?
    • DiFranzo, Bazarova, and Miller are working together to coordinate a workshop for the Truman platform, which is an open source, complete social media simulation platform for experimental research that is freely available for researchers.
    • DiFranzo and Bazarova, with Philipp Masur, a visiting scholar from Germany, are in the process of completing a three-phase study of social norms and digital literacy on privacy and disclosure in social media.

  • Funding

    • Margolin (Communication) was awarded a grant for the “Social Connections to Local Food Producers Using Immersive and Non-Immersive Video” project, in the amount of $151,145.
    • Bazarova and Whitlock were awarded $500,000 for the “Leveraging Social Media TestDrive and Digital Citizenship Curriculum for Kids and Schools” from the James and Rebecca Morgan Fund to support a partnership with Common Sense Media.
    • Bohns was awarded $250,855 as a Co-Principal Investigator for “Psychological Assessment of Voluntary Consent” with PI Roseanna Sommers. Bohns was also awarded the Op-Ed Training Grant for Society for Personality and Social Psychology.

  • Key Publications: Vanessa Bohns

    Bohns, et al. Power and Perceived Influence: I Caused Your Behavior, But I’m Not Responsible for It. Social and Personality Psychology Compass.

    Sommers & Bohns. The Voluntariness of Voluntary Consent: Consent Searches and the Psychology of Compliance. Yale Law Journal.

    Boothby, E. & Bohns, V. K. (2021). Why a simple act of kindness is not as simple as it seems: Underestimating the positive impact of our compliments on others. Forthcoming in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

    Bohns, V. K. & Flynn, F. J. (2021). Empathy and expectations of others’ willingness to help. Forthcoming in Personality and Individual Differences, 168, 110368.

    Bohns. V. K. (June 8, 2020). Three myths that stop people from asking for help at work. Harvard Business Review.

    Giurge, L. & Bohns, V. K. (April 3, 2020). Three tips to avoid WFH burnout. Harvard Business Review.

  • Key Publications: Natalie Bazarova

    DiFranzo, Bazarova, et al. Behavioral Contagion in Social Media: Effects of Social Norms, Design Interventions, and Critical Media Literacy on Self-Disclosure. 70th Annual International Communication Association Conference, Gold Coast, Australia. Top Paper for Communication and Technology Division.

    DiFranzo, Bazarova, et al. Upstanding by Design: Bystander Intervention in Cyberbullying. Proceedings of the 2018 ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.

    Taylor, S. H., DiFranzo, D., Choi, Y. H., Sannon, S., & Bazarova, N. N. (2019). Accountability and empathy by design: Encouraging bystander intervention to cyberbullying on social media. Proceedings of the ACM on Computer-Supported Collaborative Journal (PACM CSCW Journal), 3, 1-26.


  • Key Publications: Natalie Bazarova, Janis Whitlock, et al.

    Bazarova, Whitlock, et al. Cyberbullying Bystander Intervention: The Number of Offenders and Retweeting Predict Likelihood of Helping a Cyberbullying Victim. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication.

    Bazarova, Whitlock, et al. The Voluntariness of Voluntary Consent: Consent Searches and the Psychology of Compliance. Yale Law Journal.

    DiFranzo, Whitlock, Bazarova, et al. Social Media Education for the Next Generation. Proceedings of the 2019 ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.

    Kruzan, K., Whitlock, J., & Bazarova, N. N. (in press). Examining the relationship between use of a mobile peer-support application and self-injury outcomes. A longitudinal mixed-method study.  Journal of Medical Internet Research Mental Health (JMIR).

    Kruzan, K., Whitlock, J., Bazarova, N. N., Miller, K., Chapman, J., & Won, A. S. (2020). Supporting self-injury recovery: The potential for virtual reality intervention. Proceedings of the 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors and Computing Systems. ACM.


  • Key Publications: Drew Margolin

    Margolin. The Theory of Informative Fictions: A Character-Based Approach to False News and Other Misinformation. Communication Theory.

    Margolin, et al. An Exploration of Fact-Checking in Political Discussions on Reddit. Presented at 69th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association.

    Parekh, D., Margolin, D., & Ruths, D. (2020). Comparing Audience Appreciation to Fact-Checking Across Political Communities on Reddit. 12th ACM Conference on Web Science, 144–154.

    Margolin, D. B. (2020). The Theory of Informative Fictions: A Character-Based Approach to False News and Other Misinformation. Communication Theory. DOI: 10.1093/ct/qtaa002

    Xu, Y., Margolin, D., Niederdeppe, J. (2020). Testing Strategies to Increase Source Credibility through Strategic Message Design in the Context of Vaccination and Vaccine Hesitancy. Health Communication. DOI: 10.1080/10410236.2020.1751400

  • Key Publications: Drew Margolin and Natalie Bazarova

    Margolin, Bazarova, et al. Sharing Fake News on Social Media: Understanding the Relationship Between Believe and Share. Presented at the 69th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association.

  • We'd love to hear your ideas, suggestions, or questions!

    Are you
    12 + 5 =
    Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.