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Ivan Chase


Professor Emeritus
Ph.D. 1972, Harvard
The Chase Lab

Areas of Interest

Social Organization, Dominance Hierarchies in Animals and Humans, Vacancy Chain Systems in Animals and Humans, Coordination of Work in Animals


Ivan Chase is interested in social organization: what forces produce it, how it comes to have its characteristic forms, and what kinds of theories are best suited to understanding it. In pursuing these problems, he works primarily with social structures that can be studied under controlled conditions in the laboratory. These social structures include networks of relationships in face-to-face groups using dominance hierarchies in fish, the distribution of material resources using resource distribution through "vacancy chain" processes in humans and hermit crabs, and cooperation and the coordination of effort using "foraging decisions" in ants.

Both social scientists and biologists have traditionally considered social organization in animals to be a simple product of individual differences - genetic, physical, physiological, etc. - among group members. However, Chase's work demonstrates that even in "simple" animals, social organization is a complex phenomenon and that even "simple" animals social organization is a complex phenomenon and that the characteristic forms of social organization are generated by dynamics of social interaction rather than by differences in individual attributes. Chase directs the Laboratory for the Study of Social Organizations.