Using sociometers to quantify social interaction patterns

J.-P. Onnela, B. Waber, A. Pentland, S. Schnorff, D. Lazer
Nature Scientific Reports
2014
July 15, 2014

Abstract

Research on human  social interactions has traditionally relied on self-reports. Despite their  widespread use, self-reported accounts of behaviour are prone to biases and  necessarily reduce the range of behaviours, and the number of subjects, that  may be studied simultaneously. The development of ever smaller sensors makes  it possible to study group-level human behaviour in naturalistic settings  outside research laboratories. We used such sensors, sociometers, to examine  gender, talkativeness and interaction style in two different contexts. Here,  we find that in the collaborative context, women were much more likely to be  physically proximate to other women and were also significantly more  talkative than men, especially in small groups. In contrast, there were no  gender-based differences in the non-collaborative setting. Our results  highlight the importance of objective measurement in the study of human  behaviour, here enabling us to discern context specific, gender-based  differences in interaction style.

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