Jennifer Ouellette: _It’s the Network, Stupid: _ https://arstechnica.com/science/2020/01/its-the-network-stupid-study-offers-fresh-insight-into-why-were-so-divided/: 'Study offers fresh insight into why we’re so divided: social perception bias might simply be an emergent property of our social networks. Eun Lee [and] Fariba Karimi... decided to collaborate on a study of the effect of "homophily"—people's tendency to hang out with those who are similar to them (think "birds of a feather flock together")—on people's perceptions using network models. They came up with a generic binary model dividing individual nodes into two groups: Democrat or Republican, smoking or non-smoking, male or female, immigrants or nonimmigrants, for example. The model treated people as individual nodes in a network, with no consideration of human cognitive processes. The emergence of perception biases depended solely on the relative sizes of the majority and minority groups, and the extent to which like nodes connected to other like nodes...

...To test the predictions of their model, they collaborated with co-author Mirta Galesic, who leads the research group on human social dynamics at SFI. The team conducted a survey of 300 participants based in Germany, the US, and South Korea, asking about perceptions of specific minority-associated attributes.

The team was surprised to find that the survey results closely matched the model's predictions. Specifically, "People who were surrounded by people similar to them think that their group is larger than it really is, and people who have more diverse social circles think their group is smaller than it really is," Galesic told Ars. "These biases are exaggerated with the relative size of the majority and minority groups."

Thus, social perception bias appears to be a basic property of social networks (and large-scale networks in general), similar to the famous "six degrees of separation" phenomenon, or small world network structure, whereby everyone is separated by six or less social connections...


#noted #2020-03-21

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