Mapping collective behavior in the big-data era

R. Alexander Bentley, Michael J. O'Brien, William A. Brock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

75 Citations (Scopus)


In the online age, social phenomena can occur with unprecedented scale and unpredictability, and individuals have access to social connections never before possible. Similarly, behavioral scientists now have access to “big data” sets that track those connections. Although novel, studies of human dynamics based on these data sets can foster the misconception that mass-scale online behavior is all we need to know in order to understand, for example, how humans make decisions. To overcome that misconception, we present a multiscale comparative “map” that places decision making along two axes: (a) an east–west dimension that represents the extent to which a decision is made independently versus one that is made through social influence and (b) a north–south dimension that represents the extent to which there is transparency in the payoff of decisions. We divide the map into quadrants, each of which features a signature behavioral pattern. When taken together, the signatures provide an empirical framework for evaluating how modern collective behavior may be changing in the digital age.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-119
JournalBehavioral and Brain Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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