Social Networks and Oyster Consumption

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kelly Davidson

Graduate Student Mentor: Melissa Langer

Professional Staff Mentor:

Research Description:

This study aims to understand the impact of social networks and peer influence on the consumption of oysters, an eco-friendly food. Using a framed experiment we will identify the extent to which individuals adjust consumption preferences based on peers’ preferences for oysters. The social influence on oyster consumption will be measured against two other food commodities: a non-social food and a food subject to high social influence. In addition to revealing preferences for food items, participants will be asked to identify their relationships to other individuals in the experiment group and to rate the extent to which they trust those individuals’ opinions. We hypothesize that oyster consumption is subject to social influence. This study will produce a web of influence for oyster demand.  Furthermore, we will identify how factors such as relationship and trust within social groups influence individual consumer behavior.

Research Questions:

  1. To what extent do social networks influence oyster consumption?
  2. Do individuals update consumption decisions based on the trust of others in a social group?

Research Interns will be engaged primarily with the research project described above, but interns will have opportunities to be involved in other projects that are part of the Social Dimensions research for Project WiCCED (; See Internship Descriptions for the following projects to learn about other Social Dimensions research opportunities:

  • Computer Programming for Economic Experiments
  • Evaluating How NYC “Wait” Pilot Program Inspires and Induces Behavioral Change
  • Enhancing Farmers’ Adoption of Decision Support Tools to Improve Irrigation Management in Delaware
  • Experimental economics study of groundwater management

 Student Learning Objectives:  Professional and Research Skills

This internship focuses on the development of the following professional and scientific skills.


Broad Professional Skills

Specific Skills

Planning and time management

Ability to set and complete specific foals of varying scope

Express ideas in writing

Write descriptions of research procedures, create a poster of your research, communicate via email professionally and in a timely and consistent fashion

Express ideas verbally

Discuss research activity in lab meetings, present poster at symposium

Work independently

Independent work ethic – work independently or with peers to problem solve

Develop professional network

Work with lab team and broader Social Dimensions and Project WiCCED team to develop professional network, and utilize peer-groups to problem solve.

Maintain professional attitude and work principles (i.e. integrity, responsibility, diligence, following ethical standards)

Be on time, learn procedures, ask questions if unsure, respect everyone you work with, complete and maintain Institutional Review Board (IRB) Certification to work with human subjects in research


Broad Scientific Research Skills

Specific Skills

Understand scientific terms

Behavioral, experimental and environmental economics

Locate scientific articles and resources

Conduct searches for literature on environmental valuation

Understand research questions


Read and understand research articles


Apply research tools and techniques in research experiments

Participate in the development of and data collection of surveys to quantify willingness to pay for water quality improvements.

Understand, apply, and explain scientific concepts and theories

In lab meetings, with lab personnel, and during research symposium


Introductory experience with economics (e.g., successful completion of APEC 100, APEC 150, ECON 101, or similar course)

Work Environment and Expectations:

Office/economics laboratory environment:  Work will primarily take place in 025 Townsend Hall. Hours are flexibly determined between student and mentor. Students will work part time during the fall and spring semesters, and full time during UD Winter Session, January 7-February 8, 2019. Students will also participate in a retreat, communications workshop, and end-of-internship spring symposium.