The dynamics of initiative in communication networks

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Human social interaction is often intermittent. Two acquainted persons can have extended periods without social interaction punctuated by periods of repeated interaction. In this case, the repeated interaction can be characterized by a seed initiative by either of the persons and a number of follow-up interactions. The tendency to initiate social interaction plays an important role in the formation of social networks and is in general not symmetric between persons. In this paper, we study the dynamics of initiative by analysing and modeling a detailed call and text message network sampled from a group of 700 individuals. We show that in an average relationship between two individuals, one part is almost twice as likely to initiate communication compared to the other part. The asymmetry has social consequences and ultimately might lead to the discontinuation of a relationship. We explain the observed asymmetry by a positive feedback mechanism where individuals already taking initiative are more likely to take initiative in the future. In general, people with many initiatives receive attention from a broader spectrum of friends than people with few initiatives. Lastly, we compare the likelihood of taking initiative with the basic personality traits of the five factor model.




Mollgaard, A., & Mathiesen, J. (2016). The dynamics of initiative in communication networks. PLoS ONE, 11(4).

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