Magnus Thor Torfason
Assistant Professor of Business Administration
Magnus Thor Torfason is an assistant professor in the Entrepreneurial Management Unit, where he teaches the Entrepreneurial Manager course in the MBA required curriculum.
His research focuses on how behavior is influenced by the social structures of individuals and organizations. One research stream explores how social networks and group identities jointly affect adherence to informal societal rules and norms of behavior. Another examines the foundation and success or failure of networked organizations whose main purpose is to provide connections between other actors.
Professor Torfason received his doctoral training in management and organizational theory at Columbia Business School, and he was recognized with a best paper award at the 2009 Transatlantic Doctoral Student Conference. His research has been published in the American Sociological Review and profiled in media outlets such as Bloomberg. He earned bachelor's degrees in both computer science and electrical and electronic engineering at the University of Iceland.
Before beginning his graduate studies, Professor Torfason cofounded and served as technical director of HandPoint, a software company that develops payment and point-of-sale solutions for handheld computers.
Here's a Tip: Prosocial Gratuities Are Linked to Corruption
We investigated the link between tipping, an altruistic act, and bribery, an immoral act. We found a positive relationship between these two seemingly unrelated behaviors, using archival cross-national data for 32 countries, and controlling for per capita GDP, income inequality, and other factors. Countries that had higher rates of tipping behavior tended to have higher rates of corruption. We suggest that this surprising association may be accounted for by temporal focus—people may tip and bribe others in order to receive special services in the future. Indeed, in a pair of follow-up survey studies, we find evidence that the link between tipping and bribery can be partly accounted for by prospective orientation.
Keywords: Giving and Philanthropy;
Crime and Corruption;
Restaurant Organizational Forms and Community in the U.S. in 2005
Recent sociological theory and research highlights food, drink, and restaurants as culturally meaningful and related to social identity. An implication of this view holds that the prevalence of corporate chain restaurants affects the sociological character of communities, as many activists, popular-based movements, and theorists contend. The analysis we report here seeks to identify the ecological niche properties of chain and independent restaurants—which kinds of communities support restaurant chains and which kinds of communities tend to support independent local restaurants and food service providers instead. We analyze data from a 2005 sample of 49 counties across the United States with over 17,000 active restaurants. We argue that demographic stability affects the community composition of organizational forms, and we also investigate arguments about a community's income distribution, age distribution, population trends, geographic sprawl, and commuter population. We find that communities with less stable demographic makeups support more chain restaurants, but that other factors, including suburban sprawl and public transit commuters, also have some impact.
Supply Chain Management;
Civil Society or Community;
Balance and Stability;
Organizing the In-between: The Population Dynamics of Network-weaving Organizations in the Global Interstate Network
This article examines the population dynamics and viability of network weavers, which are organizations that provide network relations for others. An analysis of the population dynamics of the intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) that are the basis of the interstate networks that influenced global economic relations, peace, and democracy in the 1815-2000 period shows that IGO founding and failure depends on the ease and value of specific interstate relations. Results indicate that network-weaving organizations are easier to operate when they encompass proximate and similar actors, yet they also reap rewards for bringing together otherwise disconnected actors, in particular, actors with conflicts. Combined, these organizational processes can account for the high clustering and short-path distance between nodes that are characteristic of the endemic small-world network structure. Furthermore, the study shows that the concepts of legitimacy and competition can be applied to identify particular spaces in the network of bilateral relations that are more or less hospitable for IGOs.
Conflict and Resolution;
The Global Rise of Democracy: A Network Account
We examine the influence of an interstate network created by intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) on the global diffusion of democracy. We propose that IGOs facilitate this diffusion by transmitting information between their member states and by interpreting that information according to prevailing norms in the world society, where democracy is viewed as the legitimate form of government. We employ a network autocorrelation model to track changes in democracy among all of the world's countries from 1815 to 2000. We find that democracy does diffuse through the IGO network and that the influence of democratic countries is stronger than that of undemocratic ones. The evidence indicates that the IGO network serves as a basis for normative diffusion and is an important contribution to sociological accounts of globalization that have tended to emphasize diffusion divorced from network structure or diffusion dependent on the coercive influence of a small set of international organizations.
Keywords: International Relations;
Power and Influence;
With Us or Against Us? Networks, Identity and Order in a Virtual World
Social networks and social groups have both been seen as important to discouraging malfeasance and supporting the global pro-social norms that underlie social order, but have typically been treated either as pure substitutes or as having completely independent effects. In this paper, I propose that interpersonal relationships between individuals with different social identities play a key role in linking local and global norms, and in supporting social order. Specifically, I show that social identity derived from group memberships moderates the effects of social relationships on pro-social norm observance. I test my predictions using a novel empirical setting consisting of a large online virtual environment. I show that the number of within-group relationships increases and the number of an individual's across-group relationships reduces the prevalence of anti-normative behavior. Furthermore, I show that network closure has a qualitatively different effect between within-group ties and across-group ties. The effects of within-group and across-group ties are moderated by both group characteristics and actor experience, providing boundary conditions on the mechanisms presented here. My findings illustrate the need for a more nuanced view of the complex interrelations between institutions, identity, and networks.
Keywords: Social Norms;