[DRAFT] [GF: Phase 1 Proposal V2] Social Bonding in the City of Optimism - A Behavioural Science Study

Project name: Social Bonding in the City of Optimism - A Behavioural Science Study

Author name and contact info: Josey Beets; joseybeets@gmail.com

I understand that I will be required to provide additional KYC information to the Optimism Foundation to receive this grant: Yes

I understand that I will be expected to following the public grant reporting requirements outlined here: Yes

L2 recipient address: 0xB34F3c68CCe3ea731582Be4B95B05ade211B027D

Which Voting Cycle are you applying for?: Voting Cycle 10, Season 3

Which sub-committee should review your proposal? Growth experiment grants

Project Description: Summary

An inclusive city provides an environment for human well-being and flourishing. It represents a place to be oneself, while also allowing community. It is this balance that creates a prosperous society. And yet, the paradox of cities is that people may be surrounded by others while still feeling alone. For citizens to live an enriched life, they require more than just the infrastructure and material wealth. What makes people feel at home in a city is a sense of belonging: the feeling of being connected to other citizens, i.e., caring for and, in return, being cared for by other citizens within a community. Such family-like bonds among members of a community typically lead to feelings of ‘oneness’ with the group and enduring group commitment. It is this social glue that facilitates emotional attachment.

Building a strong Collective for a more productive and empathetic society is at the core of Optimism’s vision. Establishing strong social bonds through online, disembodied means of communications, however, can be challenging – particularly in a (pseudo)anonymous space, with little in-person interaction, such as DeFi. Moreover, the battle for attention and market dominance is high in DeFi. With new projects being launched almost daily, networks and protocols are facing the challenge of how to retain users long-term. Even though powerful brand and identity-building contributes to fostering a sense of community, such measures do not necessarily promote individuals’ bonding within the group.

The goal of this scientific study is to strengthen the Optimism Collective by examining the relational ties amongst OP citizens as well as between OP citizens and the network. The insights provided by the study will equip OP with the necessary knowledge and tools to foster relational ties in the city of Optimism. Building a strong and loyal user-base goes beyond pure financial incentives. In order to attract and retain highly committed members – and consequently, keep liquidity and TVL on chain – strong relational ties amongst OP citizens/group members and the more abstract city itself are needed.

This study will shed light on the underlying mechanisms that drive those relational ties. By evaluating these mechanisms across different protocols and providing ‘best practice’ recommendations, this study will help the Optimism Collective to further strengthen its identity, as well as evolve and grow over time.

Ecosystem Value Proposition

What is the problem statement this proposal hopes to solve for the Optimism ecosystem?

The Collective is at the core of Optimism’s identity. And yet, one pressing question for Optimism – and generally, any network and protocol in DeFi – remains: “What makes people stick to a network and/or protocol long-term?”. Building a powerful Collective, providing meaningful community-team interactions, and increasing attachment to the network is critical in order to retain users long-term, particularly for networks like OP with the vision of maximising community benefit. In a rapidly evolving space, a strong Collective can only be achieved through fostering a deep sense of community, social bonding, and loyalty among members. These mechanisms are crucial for fostering user retention.

Moreover, there is a lack of serious scientific research in DeFi. Human psychology is driving the crypto market and DeFi space. This includes often erratic and seemingly unpredictable investment behaviour. Financial investment decisions generally trigger strong emotional reactions and even more so in a highly volatile environment such as DeFi. This typically leads to pump and dump behaviour that drives users to the places with the highest yields. With the goal to foster sustained growth of a decentralised ecosystem and cultivate a Collective that eventually expands beyond the digital realm and into the physical world, social science research is needed that sheds light on the underlying drivers of users’ needs, emotions, and behaviour. Even though Optimism has already established a solid community in terms of engagement, it is essential to identify valid mechanisms of how to retain existing users in a meaningful and sustainable way as well as increase attention in the space to acquire new users. This will become even more relevant once the novelty of Optimism starts wearing off and new shiny projects appear on the horizon.

How does your proposal offer a value proposition solving the above problem?

This study will contribute to advancing Optimism as a Collective. Exploring the underlying mechanisms of members’ identity fusion, i.e., the deep feeling of ‘oneness’ with a group - and also potential ‘non-fusion’ - provides insights into the requirements for promoting and developing deep relational ties that lead to group loyalty, pro-group behaviour, and emotional attachment to the network. Based on the results, recommendations will be provided for how to foster relational bonds among OP citizens/group members and the more abstract city of Optimism.

By closing the gap regarding a lack of scientific knowledge on user retention and sustainable community-building, this study will contribute to advancing the DeFi space with Optimism as a unique use case. This goes hand in hand with building reputation and strengthening respect for Optimism beyond DeFi. DeFi is a space that is often being criticised for its immaturity and naivety by non-DeFi audiences. As a first-mover, Optimism will garner targeted attention from scholars and help elevate the space to a more mature level by funding a scientific study and fostering cutting-edge scientific knowledge.

Lastly, the findings will be translated into marketing communication measures for increasing attention in the space and attracting new users. Designing targeted communication strategies around emotional attachment based on the findings of this study will contribute to the overall perceived innovative power of Optimism; an innovative power that promotes Optimism’s vision and goes beyond technical excellence.

Why will this solution be a source of growth for the Optimism ecosystem?

First, exposure to the Optimism brand is an essential component of growth. Optimism will be among the first blockchains to appear in a scientific journal on a psychological topic related to community-building, tapping into uncharted territory. This first-mover advantage will enable Optimism to accelerate brand awareness and recognition, increase user attention, and foster trust before other entrants to that field. In so doing, this study contributes to Optimism’s value proposition of building for the public good. By providing in-depth scientific knowledge and making it available to a broad audience, Optimism will strengthen its pioneering role in facilitating public goods. The results of this study will be published in an open source, peer-reviewed scientific journal to make sure the results are accessible to the broad public. Producing peer-reviewed research, funded by Optimism, will add to building a positive reputation during a time when the whole crypto industry is experiencing somewhat of a reputational crisis.

Second, the results of this study will provide a template to foster user retention and community-building by providing a scientific foundation for ‘social bonding’ measures in crypto communities. Social bonds between members of the community define the strength of a Collective. Strongly connected members typically show a high willingness to fight for and protect their own in-group. Accordingly, it can be assumed that highly fused members are likely to be more committed, stick to the network, and encourage new users to join the network through positive word of mouth. As a unique use case, Optimism will pioneer scientific insights into the relevance of identity fusion and social bonding in DeFi.

Third, the researchers have demonstrated the importance and value of social science research for DeFi. For example, the ‘sense-making study’ conducted at Beethoven X shortly after the Luna crash in May 2022 yielded an increased sense of community, user engagement, and trust that overall led to a more serious standing of Beethoven X in the space. The goal of the sense-making study was to provide users with a confidential space to share and process their traumatic experiences related to the crash and uncover the so-called ‘cognitive gaps’, i.e., struggles, inner conflicts, and confusions of users with regard to the crash specifically and the space generally. The main findings of the study were summarised in a Medium article and the study will be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The following quotes reflect users’ perceived value of the study:

“Knowing that Beethoven X facilitates such kinds of studies has definitely increased my trust in the protocol.” (Participant 17)

“I find it super interesting that you look at this from a social science point of view. This is quite unique and unexpected from a DeFi protocol.” (Participant 3)

“This is a very, very interesting study. One of a kind in the space!” (Participant 15)

At Beethoven X, the study has inspired new community-centric formats that facilitate meaningful user engagement.

Detailed Project Description & Methodology

This study applies a social psychological lens to examine the extent of “identity fusion” amongst members of the OP community as well as between members and the network itself. Identity fusion describes the experience of feelings of oneness with a group; it emphasises intragroup dynamics and the extent to which people develop relational ties to the group. As a well-established concept, particularly relevant for studying fan communities, identity fusion predicts extraordinary pro-group behaviour and great fidelity. Strongly fused individuals experience an exceptional sense of personal agency and reciprocal strength from group membership; they develop family-like ties to other group members as well as the more abstract collective.

As the name suggests, identity fusion involves the union of the unique personal identities and social identities of fellow group members. Whereas personal identities are characteristics that make someone a unique person, social identities refer to characteristics that align a person with fellow group members. When fusion occurs, both the personal and social selves remain salient and influential but the boundaries between them become blurred. Highly fused members might therefore be identified and perceived as ‘typical’ members of a group, representing a specific personality type. Such a (perceived) personality type might become representative of the whole community, however, may deviate from the (pre-)defined brand identity. Graph 1 illustrates the potential extent of identity fusion between the self and the group; and graph 2 illustrates the example of high identity fusion between OP members and the OP network.

Graph 1: Extent of identity fusion between the self and the group.

Graph 2: Illustration of a high identity fusion between OP members and the OP network.

The main characteristics of ‘identity fusion’ are summarised below (Tab. 1):

Based on the power of identity fusion in fostering enduring group commitment and pro-group behaviour, the goal of this study is to examine identity fusion in-depth. This includes measuring the extent of identity fusion between OP members, examining the consequences of identity fusion for the network, and exploring underlying drivers for identity fusion.

Research questions

An in-depth examination of identity fusion will be achieved by answering the following research questions:

Main questions:

Q1: What is the extent of relational ties, i.e., identity fusion between OP members within the OP community?

Q2: How does identity fusion between OP members influence relationship continuance intentions with the OP network – i.e., the abstract city of Optimism?


Q3: What is the perceived personality of the OP community?

Q4: How do community-specific factors, e.g., group rituals, branding etc., influence the perceived personality of the OP community and identity fusion between OP members?

Design of the Study

We will apply a mixed-method approach to ensure an in-depth exploration of the phenomenon under investigation. By combining quantitative methods with exploratory, qualitative measures, mixed-method is a rigorous approach and unique in that it provides a deep understanding and yields more complete evidence of the phenomenon under investigation.

The specific measures include:

  • Measure the extent of identity fusion, i.e., feelings of connectedness and reciprocal strength between OP members within the OP community
  • Examine how identity fusion of OP members influences their intention to continue engaging with the OP network
  • Explore the perceived personality of the OP community
  • Examine community-specific factors that influence the perceived personality of the OP community and identity fusion between OP members

Comparability of the Results

This study will be conceptualised specifically for Optimism. To increase comparability and collect more nuanced results, however, we plan to additionally conduct the study across several protocols/product ecosystems on OP. Participation from Beethoven X has been confirmed, and we’re in discussion with additional protocols on OP. The comparison between different protocols building on OP will provide Optimism with valuable insights into the relational ties amongst members of the broader Collective within the OP ecosystem. Importantly, the mechanisms that underlie fusion with a group and explain its consequences may be different across protocols and networks.

Research Phases, Deliverables/Milestones, Timeline

*the timeline & study duration is largely dependent on the availability of study participants; thus, deviation from the suggested timeline may occur

Number of OP tokens requested: ~41’000 OP (depending on current market price)

How will the OP tokens be distributed?

The OP tokens will be distributed among the three researchers involved in this project over a period of ~5-6 months.

Costs - Required Grant (in USD)

How much will your project match in co-incentives?

Since we’re aiming to conduct the study also across 1-2 protocols on OP, we intend to fund 30% of the overall costs of USD 69’000 via the partnering protocols.

Why will incentivized users and liquidity on Optimism remain after incentives dry up?

This study will fill this very gap of how to retain users long-term by examining and identifying valid mechanisms that will contribute to user retention after incentives dry up. This question is literally what we’re studying =)


Project links: Presentation

Additional team member info:
Josey: https://twitter.com/BeetsJosey
Erudraeth: https://twitter.com/erudraeth

Previous project contributions: Sense-making of a historical crisis in crypto: Josey Beets – Medium

Did the project apply for or receive OP tokens through the Foundation Partner Fund?: No

Competitors, peers, or similar projects (please link): None

Is/will this project be open sourced? Yes, it will be open access once the results are published; any data collected in this research will be treated as confidential and reported in an anonymised manner

Optimism native?: Yes

Has your project previously applied for an OP grant? No


Hello @Josey !!
This is an amazing proposal and the research here is much needed for Optimism network especially when it comes to a protocol oriented initiative like the recent OP Quests that ended this month.

Have you considered using any q & a integrations like Peeranha ? This is a partnership we gained recently that I could see working well for your project. Specifically the marketing and dissemination of knowledge process you describe with questionnaires.

I am very excited to see how the rest of the governance members respond to amazing builders coming to Optimism network this season.

Keep up the great work!!!


Hi FractalVisions,

Thank you for your kind words. That means a lot to us!

Hm, Peeranha could be an interesting tool for community engagement or group discussions/contributions on a certain topic.

Thanks for sharing!

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Really looking forward to working on this project. It’s about time that Web3 had some more rigorous science to understand user behaviour! I’m around as well if anyone has questions about the proposal.


Glad to see others are passionate about data research!!!


I read your proposal and I like it. Here is some feedback:

This research can provide very important knowledge for the OP ecosystem and for the crypto community.. Social psychology is a key part of crypto, and I think we also must invite researchers from different backgrounds to work on this. You said that:

will you be open to providing a hash of the anonymized data you’ll be sharing after the research is published? There is a movement of DeScience becoming stronger in the last months and it would be great to integrate this with such values. It would be something like this FAIR Principles - GO FAIR . It would be a great deal to participate in such movements as we are supposed to be a change in the way of doing things

About sampling collection and incentives:
I want to remark on how important is controlling bias. The only way to get meaningful results is to do this very thoughtfully. I am excited to see you guys doing as well as it can be done (super difficult haha).

I support this kind of project if anything useful comes to my mind to help, I will share it.

Best of luck


Hi @TheDoctor,

Thank you very much for your positive feedback and valuable inputs!

You’re raising an important point regarding ethical practices in scientific data management and stewardship. Transparency, reproducibility, and replicability are cornerstones of rigorous empirical research that serve as our guiding principles. These go hand in hand with other criteria that we regard as critical such as open accessibility and data ownership - all principles that have gained increasing relevance recently.

I’m glad you mentioned the DeSci movement! - and you’re preaching to the choir by highlighting the importance of DeSci =) Also, sounds like an interesting idea regarding hashing and we’d love to know more about it!

Yeah, we will make sure to control for any biases in the research process.

Happy to chat if you have any further questions or inputs. Thanks a lot for your support!


I strongly support this proposal. Beethoven’s team has a strong focus on excellence and I have seen their dedication firsthand. The research paper appears to be well-organized and appropriately scoped, giving me confidence in its potential success. My past experiences with Beethoven have also been positive, giving me further confidence in the quality of their work.


My pleasure. I very much hope for community feedback and I will stay tuned to participate with any suggestions as far as I could.

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Having worked with the BeethovenX team for over a year at this point, I am a strong supporter of all of their work. Truly a team that operates in a trustworthy, transparent standard that I think we could all strive to meet.

I fully support this proposal. I do think it is time that Crypto / Web3 (as a whole) spends some effort to study and formalize the psychological aspects to its movement to better understand the collective identity. Time and time again social interactions between community members, team members, and other participants drive both positive and negative behaviors. How do we harness that energy in a positive way? How can we build a more comprehensive / inclusive culture (as a project and as a larger community)? Is there a way to create a harmonic user identity?

Studies like this one could give us a stronger understanding of identity in the Optimism community and insights into how to build / foster an ideal Optimism culture / identity. I hope this proposal gets funded (and has follow on proposals for other research topics).


Thanks for this feedback, it’s really helpful! As @Josey said, our team is very keen to make as much of the data accessible as possible. My initial thought was to host the anonymised data in a public repository (e.g. the OSF) but am definitely open to other suggestions about ways of sharing the data, to allow other researchers to explore it. There are always competing ethical concerns with human research though. We want to be open and transparent with our methods, but we also need to be careful to protect participants’ identities.


Currently, there is a prohibition on selling OP tokens by grantees; this includes related persons. Based on the inclusion of research salary, open-access publication costs, conference expenses, etc., I would assume that these individuals intend to sell the tokens.

While I personally disagree with the prohibition of selling OP tokens by grantees, while it is still in place, Governance Fund grants can’t be used to fund expenses.

Currently there is a prohibition on selling of OP tokens by grantees. While we are open to governance revisiting this prohibition, while it is still in place, Governance Fund grants can’t be used to offset expenses directly by selling.

I recommend revising the grant application to exclude expenses that require direct funding via selling OP.


You can use account abstraction for this with EIP-4337 once it becomes available.

Or you could also token gate a proof system with different tier requirements for users on Guild and create a google doc only accessible to individuals based on these statistics. A bit unorthodox but effective.

Thanks for posting this and bringing it to our attention. I believe there is a way for the team to come up with a solution for the way they initially intended to use these funds.

I suggested a token rewards program based around a NFT collection mint that would be dedicated to paying the research developers with the funds from primary and secondary sales. Token rewards would then be distributed to those holders from the growth experiment grant.


Thank you very much for this input, @FractalVisions. These are all really helpful thoughts! We will try to come up with a solution that fits within the confines of the no sale policy.

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Hi @MattL, just wanted to thank you again for your feedback and also your inputs via Discord.

We reflected on potential strategies to fit the proposal into the no sale policy and what that would mean for the type of project that we are pursuing. We realize that fitting the proposal into the no sale rule couldn’t be done without making substantial changes that would potentially also affect the nature of our project. The partner fund seems like the smoothest solution for a project like ours.

Just wanted to let you know that we will reach out to the partner fund directly and not pursue the growth experiment funding any further for now within Cycle 10. Does that require any actions from our side or could you pass that on to the grants council?

No worries Josey! This is probably the best route forward as the Grants Council works with the foundation to move away from this super-restrictive rule.

No need to do anything here; we’ll just mark this in the grants internal review process. Thanks and let me know if there’s anything I can do to help further


any update on this fren?

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i personally feel the the power of the community as a whole is a vastly untapped resource.

these kind of studies i think are kinda the norm outside of web3 and defi out in the business and marketing and negotiations world? hasnt untold millions of dollars and hours already been poured into these exact kind of studies outside of defi?

i strongly support this study and purpose, hoping the council and foundation can figure out how to get this off the ground sounds like an extremely note worthy investment imo.


Thanks Sun! Hopefully the Foundation will recognize the value that a behavioural science study could bring for OP and DeFi in general!