Luke J. Matthews

Photo of Luke Matthews
Behavioral and Social Scientist; Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School; Codirector, RAND Center for Applied Network Analysis
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 the RAND Corporation, a professor at Pardee RAND Graduate School, and codirects the RAND Center for Applied Network Analysis. Much of his work focuses on studying cultural diffusion on social networks, that is, 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 cultural transmission influences a variety of decisions including religious violence and management of patient referrals by physicians.

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, "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

Gidengil, C., C. Chen, A. M. Parker, S. Nowak, and L. J. Matthews, "Beliefs around childhood vaccines in the United States: A systematic review," Vaccine, 2019

Luke J. Matthews, Ryan A. Brown, David P. Kennedy, A Manual for Cultural Analysis, RAND Corporation (TL-275), 2018

Karimov, R. and L.J. Matthews, "A simulation assessment of methods to infer cultural transmission on dark networks," Journal of Defense Modeling and Simulation: Applications, Methodology, Technology, 14, 2017

Matthews, L. J., S. Passmore, P. M. Richard, R. D. Gray, and Q. D. Atkinson, "Shared cultural history as a predictor of political and economic changes among nation states," PLoS ONE, 11, 2016

Matthews, L. J., J. Edmonds, W. Wildman, and C. L. Nunn, "Cultural inheritance or cultural diffusion of religious violence? A quantitative case study of the Radical Reformation," Religion, Brain, & Behavior, 3, 2013

Matthews, L. J., "The recognition signal hypothesis for the adaptive evolution of religion: a phylogenetic test with Christian denominations," Human Nature, 23, 2012