Dynamic Network Lab



To use social network, motivation, and decision science to positively impact individuals, groups, and organizations.

Decision-making Calculator

What's new?

The Lab just launched the Decision Making Calculator to help individuals and groups make important decisions in their lives.

It's free and open for public use.  Click here to learn more or to use now.


Networks, Motivation, and Decision-Making

The lab combines social network analysis, motivation, and decision-making approaches to more fully explain how complex systems wield their power on important targets: goals, important decisions, specific behaviors, performance, climates, and system well-being.  Grounded in dynamic network theory (DNT), network goal analysis (NGA) aims to portray these system dynamics at individual, group, organizational, or international levels, including those with conflict. NGA can also be used with other theoretical approaches, not just DNT, whenever social networks and goals (or target behaviors) are the focus.  At the micro level, we also use behavioral reasoning theory (BRT) to examine how people's reasoning and counter-argument processes within the network help trigger motivated goal striving and behavior at the individual levels. Utilizing both DNT and BRT together is presumed to provide a rich, yet highly operational understanding of system behavior with direct implications for strategic change to improve system functioning.  For researchers interested in applying BRT and NGA methodological surveys and computer visualizations, click here.  

How are networks connected to motivation and decision-making?

Our approach inserts goal nodes into social networks to provide new insights about system functioning (Westaby and colleagues). Goals nodes are inherently motivational and can represent many important things, such as goals, missions, objectives, important decisions, intentions, wishes, needs, reasons, dreams, or target behaviors. Thus, inserting goal nodes into network structures has the capacity to help explain system functioning across diverse human experiences and topical areas.

Comparison to Traditional Social Network

Comparing Approaches

Network goal analyis (NGA) examines how social networks pivot around important goals with theoretically determined motivational linkages.  In contrast, traditional social network analysis (SNA) focuses on social structural linkages without explict links to goal nodes.  However, the approaches are complementary, depending on the scientific or practice question. 

Click to compare


Break it down and build it back up

The Lab's surveys, computer visualizations, and reports allow each sub-network to be examined separately to better understand complex systems.  It breaks down the complexity into meaningful chunks to maximize meaning and understanding.  We also combine the concepts to provide overall system-level summaries of the networks, such as their positive focus ratio and network affirmation ratio.  Our decision tools also provide feedback as to how people may be leaning in their decisions, based upon specific reasoning, counter-arguments, confidence, and information search.

View more data visualization.

Collaborating on New Research

Researchers engaged in rigorous projects examining important target goals, decisions, behaviors, or general life or work networks can contact us to inquire about using our decision-making calculators and/or network goal surveys and computer visualizations.

Background Image: Publications

Recommended Reading

Click here for general paper on dynamic network theory in American PsychologistDynamic network theory (Westaby, Pfaff, & Redding, 2014)

Click here for recent network goal analysis (NGA) publicationNetwork goal analysis paper (Westaby & Parr, 2020)

Click here for recent behavioral reasoning theory publicationWagner and Westaby (2020). Winner, McGregor Best Paper Award


Coming Soon in the APA Handbook of Research Methods in Psychology: Social Network Analysis in Psychology: Recent Breakthroughs in Methods and Theories (Wang, Stark, Westaby, Parr, & Newman).  In press.


Click here for more publications: Research

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