(Submitted on 8 Jul 2014)
Abstract: Group-level cognitive states are widely observed in human social systems, but their discussion is often ruled out a priori in quantitative approaches. In this paper, we show how reference to the irreducible mental states and psychological dynamics of a group is necessary to make sense of large scale social phenomena. We introduce the problem of mental boundaries by reference to a classic problem in the evolution of cooperation. We then provide an explicit quantitative example drawn from ongoing work on cooperation and conflict among Wikipedia editors. We show the limitations of methodological individualism, and the substantial benefits that come from being able to refer to collective intentions and attributions of cognitive states of the form "what the group believes" and "what the group values".
Comments: 18 pages, 4 figures
Cite as: arXiv:1407.2210 [q-bio.NC]
(or arXiv:1407.2210v1 [q-bio.NC] for this version)
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PLoS ONE 9(6): e101511.
Abstract: We investigate the computational structure of a paradigmatic example of distributed social interaction: that of the open-source Wikipedia community. We examine the statistical properties of its cooperative behavior, and perform model selection to determine whether this aspect of the system can be described by a finite-state process, or whether reference to an effectively unbounded resource allows for a more parsimonious description. We find strong evidence, in a majority of the most-edited pages, in favor of a collective-state model, where the probability of a “revert” action declines as the square root of the number of non-revert actions seen since the last revert. We provide evidence that the emergence of this social counter is driven by collective interaction effects, rather than properties of individual users.
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