Boston Area Research Initiative

Dan o'brien

Research Director, Boston Area Research Initiative
Lecturer on Sociology, Harvard University
Lecturer, Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts Boston

Dan O'Brien's research and teaching is focused on the psychology and sociology of urban neighborhoods. Dr. O'Brien has used this multidisciplinary approach to further research on "broken windows," or the presence of disorder and deterioration in a neighborhood, in a number of directions. He has published papers on: how people perceive and interpret neighborhood disorder; the patterns of behavior that create or eliminate disorder within a neighborhood; and disorder's relationship with other neighborhood outcomes, like adolescent behavior. He has also done work on how individuals differ in their levels of prosociality (e.g., cooperation, sharing) across neighborhoods. Many of these projects have been done in collaboration with interested city agencies and community groups.

Dr. O'Brien came to BARI from Binghamton University in Binghamton, NY, where he earned his doctorate and was a founding member of the Binghamton Neighborhood Project (BNP), an interdisciplinary program intended to unify researchers, policymakers, and practitioners in the effort to address the challenges of urban life from a scientific perspective.

See Dan O'Brien's complete Curriculum Vitae.

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Selected Publications

O’Brien, D.T., Sampson, R.J., Winship, C. Ecometrics in the age of big data: Measuring and assessing “broken windows” using administrative records. Under review. [Working Paper #3]

O’Brien, D.T. 2013. Custodians and custodianship in urban neighborhoods: A methodology using reports of public issues received by a city’s 311 hotline. Published online at Environment & Behavior. [Journal] [Earlier version is Working Paper #1]

O’Brien, D.T., Kauffman, R. 2013. Broken windows and low adolescent prosociality: Not cause and consequence, but co-symptoms of low collective efficacy.  American Journal of Community Psychology, 51: 359-369. [Journal] 

O’Brien, D.T., Norton, C., Cohen, J., Wilson, D.S. 2012. Cultural variation in community perception: Local adaptation and the interpretation of disorder. Published online at Environment and Behavior[Journal] 

O’Brien, D.T. 2012. Getting to know your neighbors: Introducing evolutionary psychology to urban research-policy collaborations. Journal of Social, Evolutionary and Cultural Psychology, 6: 329-343. [PDF]

O’Brien, D.T. 2012. Managing the urban commons: The relative influence of individual and social incentives on the treatment of public space. Human Nature, 23: 467-489. [Journal] 

O’Brien, D.T., Gallup, A.C., Wilson, D.S. 2012. Residential mobility and prosocial development within a single city. American Journal of Community Psychology, 50: 26-36. [Journal] 

O’Brien, D.T., Wilson, D.S. 2011. Community Perception: The ability to assess the safety of unfamiliar neighborhoods and respond adaptively. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology100: 606-620. [Journal] 

Wilson, D.S., O’Brien, D.T., Sesma, A. 2009. Human prosociality from an evolutionary perspective: Variation and correlations at a city-wide scale. Evolution & Human Behavior, 30: 190-200. [Journal] 
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