Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Nuance

In their study, Seth Marvel, Steven Strogatz, and Jon Kleinberg from Cornell University have used theories from social psychology to classify certain configurations of friends and enemies as being more stable than others. They show that these configurations can be represented by an energy landscape, in which the overall social stress corresponds to a kind of energy that relaxes as relationships shift between friends and enemies.

In their model, the researchers used plus signs to represent friendships between two individuals, and minus signs when two individuals were enemies. Some configurations in a group were considered balanced, while others were unbalanced. For example, in a balanced configuration, the enemy of your enemy should be your friend, and the friend of your enemy should be your enemy. In the scientists’ model, these balanced configurations require less energy to maintain, and are the global minima in the energy landscape. The configurations of lowest possible energy are those in which all pairs in the network are friends, or in
which the network is divided into two “rival factions”: two groups of mutual friends who are antagonistic toward each other.

The ability to objectify the communicative process among warring parties via physics shows a new and sophisticated way to deal with some of the most difficult issues facing man today as this approach systematizes how individuals and social groups interact with each other at deep level. Perhaps this innovative approach to resolving personal and political strife should be tried prior to committing precious resources to questionable military adventures like Iraq & Afghanistan because war...is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected. - Sun Tzu, The Art of War.

For greater detail into this amazing research, click here.

Addendum. Click on the image above to check out how neuroscientists are looking at the brain's mirror neurons and how they impact the social world of man. Pretty amazing research that supports, in empirical fashion, the energy landscape of interpersonal communications of groups and individuals.

"Such interactions are a feature of many aspects of everyday life. They come to the fore when people play music, so in one of our experiments we got two people to tap a simple beat together. You might expect a leader and a follower to emerge, with the leader trying to maintain the beat, while the follower synchronises with the leader. Our twist was to also study what happened when each person could only hear the other, but not him or herself. No leader emerged: both players became followers, continually and mutually adjusting their taps to each other."

Sounds like Jazz doesn't it. :)
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