Luke J. Matthews

Luke J. Matthews
Senior Behavioral and Social Scientist; Professor of Policy Analysis, Pardee RAND Graduate School
Boston Office


B.S. in biology/anthropology, Indiana University of Pennsylvania; M.A. in anthropology, New York University; Ph.D. in anthropology, New York University


Luke Matthews is a behavioral and social scientist at RAND and a professor at Pardee RAND Graduate School. Much of his work focuses on using formal models for cultural diffusion on social networks to better understand how people influence each other. He has applied social network analysis, simulation models, and machine learning to mixed qualitative-quantitative data.

Matthews first studied cultural diffusion in the social networks of capuchin monkeys in the Ecuadorian Amazon. He subsequently studied diffusion dynamics in systems ranging from ancient human migrations to contemporaneous Christian groups before bringing his experience to the applied sector. His applied work has used both quantitative and qualitative data to examine how culture influences a variety of decisions linked to conspiracy theories and misinformation.

Matthews' research has been featured in New Scientist, Science News, The Christian Science Monitor, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. Prior to joining RAND, he was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, and worked in private industry for a startup social network analytics company. Matthews holds a doctorate in anthropology from New York University.

Pardee RAND Graduate School Courses

Previous Positions

Senior Scientific Director, Activate Networks Inc., 2011-2014; Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University, 2008-2011

Selected Publications

Luke J. Matthews, Werner B. Hertzog, Thanos Kyritsis, Rose Kerber, "Magic, religion, and science: secularization trends and continued coexistence," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 2022

Matthews, Luke J., Andrew M. Parker, Katherine Grace Carman, Rose Kerber, and Jennifer Kavanagh, Individual Differences in Resistance to Truth Decay: Exploring the Role of Reasoning and Cognitive Biases, RAND Corporation (RR-A112-17), 2022

Williams, Heather J., Luke J. Matthews, Pauline Moore, Matthew A. DeNardo, James V. Marrone, Brian A. Jackson, William Marcellino, and Todd C. Helmus, Mapping White Identity Terrorism and Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremism: A Social Network Analysis of Online Activity, RAND Corporation (RR-A1841-1), 2022

Luke J. Matthews, "Thinking outside the altruistic box: why we need other evolutionary theories to explain why religion is religious," Journal of Cognitive Historiography, 6(1), 2022

Schirmer, Peter, Amber Jaycocks, Sean Mann, William Marcellino, Luke J. Matthews, John David Parsons, and David Schulker, Natural Language Processing: Security- and Defense-Related Lessons Learned, RAND Corporation (PE-A926-1), 2021

Nowak, S. A., C. Chen, A. M. Parker, C. A. Gidengil, and L. J. Matthews, "Comparing covariation among vaccine hesitancy and broader beliefs within Twitter and survey data," PLoS ONE, 2020

Luke J. Matthews, "A moonshot for extraterrestrial communication," Anthropology News, 2019

Ruck, D. J., L. J. Matthews, T. Kyritsis, Q. D. Atkinson, and R. Alexander Bentley, "The cultural foundations of modern democracies," Nature Human Behaviour, 2019