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Engineering

Network Acuity: Social Perceptions in a Small-World Experiment

Sidhartha Jha, et al.

Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences
April, 2018
DOI: 10.21985/N2T381
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Abstract

It is well documented that an individual’s ability to know who knows whom in their network has positive benefits in various facets of professional life. But people vary in their network acuity - that is, their ability to accurately assess who knows whom in their network. This poster seeks to understand what explains a person’s network acuity? Is it shaped by the individual’s position in the network or is it an individual trait? We address these questions using data collected from 6-DoS (6 Degrees of Separation), a Web-based platform we developed to set up, conduct and collect data on various small-world experiments within a predefined social network. First, individuals answer various personality-based questions. Individuals need to route messages through a finite number of pre-selected contacts. The intended target for these messages is a few degrees of separation away from the individual. Their goal is to send it to one of their direct contacts who can get it to the final target in the shortest number of steps. We measure every participant’s network acuity measure by taking into account how the individual performance compared to the best possible performance and also takes into account how difficult it was to make the right choice. It averages this over all the messages relayed by the individual. We find that our measure of network acuity is not correlated to any centrality measures commonly used as a proxy for the location in a network. We do find that it is correlated to personality traits such as openness and conscientiousness. Therefore, we conclude that network acuity is a personality trait and not a function of a person’s location in the network. Our results suggest that individuals with specific personality traits might be best suited to perform tasks at specific times during the life of a project.

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