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.
A major area of Professor Torfason's research is the behavior of individual social network structures. He studies the violation of norms – specifically the use of excessive force in conflict situations – within the empirical context of a large online video game. He has found that effect of network ties on behavior differs significantly when the ties are among members of the same formal organization within the game and when they span organizational boundaries. This and other of Professor Torfason's research projects rely on electronic trace data from virtual online environments, and he has a deep interest in both the methodological questions associated with the analysis of large-scale electronic data sets and the theoretical questions associated with studying behavior in environments that are not considered “real” in the conventional sense.
In another primary research stream, Professor Torfason investigates networked organizations. In a study of the institutional impact of networked organizations, he has focused on international organizations and the rise of democracy over nearly two centuries. His work documents the importance of international organizations in diffusing the cultural norms that promote the spread of democracy. In a separate study on the population dynamics of networked organizations, he has found that the foundation and failure of international organizations are closely related to the existing network structure of the states that could theoretically cofound them.
Professor Torfason has also examined the ecology of organizations by analyzing the prevalence of chain restaurants in different U.S. metropolitan areas. The results indicate that a primary characteristic of communities that support chains is demographic instability, suggesting that demographic stability has a key relationship with community identity.