Experimental research

When I was a PhD student, stretching my horizons meant thinking about commutative ring theory, instead of general rings. Over my career I have gradually stretched further, taking in mathematical parts of computer science and social choice theory. However in recent years the stretching has become much larger. In addition to supervising PhD students in network science, my first (joint) work on experimental social science has been uploaded to the world.

In this work, ultimately inspired by a logical model developed by our colleague Patrick Girard and coauthors to describe belief changes in social networks, Valery Pavlov and I have conducted a laboratory experiment with human participants, designed to measure influence and social learning of factual information. A novelty was the way we allowed and incentivized participants to truthfully report “I don’t know” – this seemingly small change has large effects on the dynamics.

Almost everything about this was new to me, but I now feel confident about taking this work much further. Threshold-type diffusion models, as opposed to the infection-type models so common in network science, seem to be much more relevant to this kind of situation. Our work suggests a different model from the usual threshold model.

Who knows what the next decade will bring? Perhaps an art installation or a musical performance? There are still faculties of the university I haven’t been much involved with.

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