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Human social sensing is an untapped resource for computational social science


The ability to ‘sense’ the social environment and thereby to understand the thoughts and actions of others allows humans to fit into their social worlds, communicate and cooperate, and learn from others’ experiences. Here we argue that, through the lens of computational social science, this ability can be used to advance research into human sociality. When strategically selected to represent a specific population of interest, human social sensors can help to describe and predict societal trends. In addition, their reports of how they experience their social worlds can help to build models of social dynamics that are constrained by the empirical reality of human social systems.

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Fig. 1: Human social sensing as a resource for computational social science.
Fig. 2: Friendship paradox.


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We thank F. Gerdon, J. Foster, R. Kurvers, M. Schierholz, P. Schenk, T. Wallsten, and C. Wagner for comments on an earlier version of the manuscript, as well as our many collaborators for their contributions to this work. M.G., H.O., T.v.d.D., J.D., W.B.d.B., and D.P. were supported in part by grants from the National Science Foundation (M.G.: DRMS-1757211; H.O., M.G., and J.D.: BCS-1918490; M.G., H.O., and T.v.d.D.: DRMS-1949432; H.O., M.G., W.B.d.B., and D.P.: MMS-2019982), M.G., T.v.d.D., and D.L.S. were supported in part by a grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA 2018-67023-27677), and J.D. was supported in part by an EU Horizon 2020 Marie Curie Global Fellowship (no. 889682).

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Galesic, M., Bruine de Bruin, W., Dalege, J. et al. Human social sensing is an untapped resource for computational social science. Nature 595, 214–222 (2021).

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