Understanding individual behaviors within covert networks: The interplay of individual qualities, psychological predispositions, and network effects

  • Robins G
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This article theorizes about how individual factors and network effects interact with each other in ways relevant to the study of networks generally, but in particular of criminal networks. In modern network analysis, careful technical descriptions that involve important graph-theory measures are entirely sensible, but they often ignore specific details about the individuals within the network. For study of a human social system, to ignore qualities of the actors is to risk an incomplete, possibly spurious, explanation, so individual-level factors may be important for a more complete understanding of the system. In covert and criminal networks, actors have motivations to keep some activities from public view, so it is impossible to understand such networks without appreciating at least that individual-level intention. This article describes five different levels of effects, both individual and relational, relevant to network-based social systems, and explains how these effects may interact. Important implications for the study of criminal networks include the formation of trust within networks, the exercise of control, and the identification of network brokers. A richer description of individual action within a complex social system will require better knowledge about how personality, social identity and other psychological factors are distinct from, and yet may interact with, self organizing network processes.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Criminal networks
  • Psychology and social networks
  • Social influence
  • Social networks
  • Social selection

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  • Garry Robins

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