Predicting the Power Dynamics of Group Discussions

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Wei Pan and a group of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have apparently come up with an accurate way of figuring out the power dynamics of group discussions. They monitored four-person chats to create their computer model.

The question Pan and co try to answer at each point in these discussions is: who is going to speak next. Humans listening to these discussions get this right about half the time. Presumably, they are able to use various cues such as the topic of conversation and the inferred emotional state of each speaker.

Pan and co's algorithm does significantly better than this, correctly predicting the next speaker between 55 and 67 per cent of the time. And get this: it does it using nothing but the volume of speech to determine the patterns of influence between individuals.

Read the full story at Technology Review.

(Also, we couldn't help but be reminded of the 1957 classic movie 12 Angry Men, which is all about the shifting power dynamics in a jury deliberation. It's a fantastic movie, and we've posted a clip below. Enjoy!)


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Niraj Chokshi is a former staff editor at TheAtlantic.com, where he wrote about technology. He is currently freelancing and can be reached through his personal website, NirajC.com. More

Niraj previously reported on the business of the nation's largest law firms for The Recorder, a San Francisco legal newspaper. He has also been published in The Hartford Courant, The Seattle Times and The Age, in Melbourne, Australia. He's also a longtime programmer and sometimes website designer.
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