Category Archives: social dynamics

The New Science of Culturomics

By Yunkyu Sohn

Using a corpus of digitalized texts of The Google Books Project (i.e. the offline version of Google Trends), Michel et al. (2011) propose a new approach for quantitative investigation of culture. Their method may have broad impacts on various disciplines such as “lexicography, the evolution of grammar, collective memory, the adoption of technology, the pursuit of fame, censorship, and historical epidemiology.”

New Papers in the Physics and Society section at

By Chris Fariss

Evolution of Coordination in Social Networks: A Numerical Study

Coordination games are important to explain efficient and desirable social behavior. Here we study these games by extensive numerical simulation on networked social structures using an evolutionary approach. We show that local network effects may promote selection of efficient equilibria in both pure and general coordination games and may explain social polarization. These results are put into perspective with respect to known theoretical results. The main insight we obtain is that clustering, and especially community structure in social networks has a positive role in promoting socially efficient outcomes.

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Truthy tweets (in real time)

by Robert Bond

Some researchers at the University of Indiana have created a website that lets users track politics-related tweets in real time. The site includes trends over time, network visualizations, among other things. This is a great example of the kinds of things one could do research on using the (freely available) data from Twitter’s API. While I don’t have the programming skills to do anything useful with the API, I can get some data out of the API using the R package for Twitter.

Vote, your neighbors are watching

By Mike Rivera

A recent NY Times Article reminds us of the effectiveness of social pressure on political behavior.  Check it out.

Gladwell on social media

by Robert Bond

Malcolm Gladwell has a new piece in The New Yorker on social media and activism. I have linked to it here.

In the article Gladwell makes a lot of assertions about how people use social media and what it is/isn’t useful for doing. Most of these assertions are not based on research; rather, they seem to be based on what he assumes about how Facebook and Twitter are used. This is a great article to get some hypotheses about how people actually use these types of media!

Pulse of the Nation

by Yunkyu Sohn

Population dynamics of human emotion has clear cycles!

Hand Washing Diminishes Cognitive Dissonance Effect

by Yunkyu Sohn

What we do when we confront multiple contradicting ideas? The theory of cognitive dissonance asserts that people tend to manipulate their preference, attitude or opinion to evade such uncomfortable situations. Psychologists developed a standard experimental setup to assess the presence of such tendency. In this setup, the experimenter asks subjects to rank N objects according to their preference and offers n<N objects to them. After the transaction was made the subjects are asked to re-rank N products. Many experimental studies have found that the subjects are likely to alter their preference ordering. That is, they tend to rank those n objects higher afterward. Two fMRI studies (Sharot, Martino and Dolan 2009; Veen et al. 2009) revealed that dorsal anterior cingulate cortex anterior insula, caudate nucleus and amygdala underly certain behavior.

In a recent Brevia published in Science, Lee and Schwarz report that ordinary hand washing task removes the consequential preference shift caused by cognitive dissonance. This study extends the findings of previous studies which examined the role of physical cleansing on compensatory behavior and moral judgement, and demonstrates that it also has implications on people’s preference consistency. The link found in these works may elucidate result of voters’ physical and physiological activities on their political attitudes and decisions (see Mullainathan and Washington on cognitive dissonance in voting).