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American social theorist and experimental social psychologist Karen S. Cook (b. 1946) has played a major role in advancing the theory and study of exchange and exchange networks and in developing and using rational choice theory more generally. Cook's substantive work can be grouped into these interconnected areas: exchange and power in exchange networks, distributive justice, generalized exchange, and, most recently, trust.

Educated at Stanford University, Cook first took a faculty position at the University of Washington, where she remained for two decades (she has been at Stanford University since 1998). There, she joined Richard Emerson in theoretical and experimental investigation of exchange networks. They focused on how network structure affects the dependence and thus power of network members, and on justice and commitment within networks.

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