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The rippling dynamics of valenced messages in naturalistic youth chat

  • Seth Frey
  • Karsten Donnay
  • Dirk Helbing
  • Robert W. Sumner
  • Maarten W. Bos
Article

Abstract

Even though human behavior is largely driven by real-time feedback from others, this social complexity is underrepresented in psychological theory, largely because it is so difficult to isolate. In this work, we performed a quasi-experimental analysis of hundreds of millions of chat room messages between young people. This allowed us to reconstruct how—and on what timeline—the valence of one message affects the valence of subsequent messages by others. For the highly emotionally valenced chat messages that we focused on, we found that these messages elicited a general increase of 0.1 to 0.4 messages per minute. This influence started 2 s after the original message and continued out to 60 s. Expanding our focus to include feedback loops—the way a speaker’s chat comes back to affect him or her—we found that the stimulating effects of these same chat events started rippling back from others 8 s after the original message, to cause an increase in the speaker’s chat that persisted for up to 8 min. This feedback accounted for at least 1% of the bulk of chat. Additionally, a message’s valence affects its dynamics, with negative events feeding back more slowly and continuing to affect the speaker longer. By reconstructing the second-by-second dynamics of many psychosocial processes in aggregate, we captured the timescales at which they collectively ripple through a social system to drive system-level outcomes.

Keywords

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Notes

Author note

S.F. wishes to thank Michael Mäs, Emma Templeton, Beau Sievers, David Garcia, and Luke Chang for their ideas, guidance, and input. K.D. and D.H. acknowledge financial support from Minerva Grant #FA9550-14-1-0353 DEF (AFOSR) and ERC Advanced Investigator “Momentum” Grant #324247, respectively. S.F. acknowledges the support of the Neukom Institute for Computational Science. For access to the data, contact authors S.F. and M.W.B. This research was approved by the ETH Zurich Ethics Commission, IRB #EK 2014-N-55.

Supplementary material

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ESM 1 (PDF 710 kb)

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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of CommunicationUC DavisDavisUSA
  2. 2.Neukom InstituteDartmouth CollegeHanoverUSA
  3. 3.Disney ResearchLos AngelesUSA
  4. 4.University of KonstanzKonstanzGermany
  5. 5.ETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  6. 6.Carnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA

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