Disentangling Homophily, Community Structure, and Triadic Closure in Networks

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16 Citations (SciVal)

Abstract

The network of social connections between friends, the interactions between proteins, metabolic relationships in the cell, links between websites, and many other systems are almost always the result of a mixture of generative mechanisms. These mechanisms often operate at distinct scales—globally or locally—but nevertheless leave traces in the network structure that are difficult to distinguish from one other. Here, we provide a way to distinguish two key generative mechanisms based only on a final snapshot of the system.In our study, we explore two network processes: homophily (the tendency of two nodes to connect if they share some underlying property) and triadic closure (the tendency of two nodes to connect if they already share a neighbor). Although distinct, these two processes lead to similar observed patterns in the network.For each link in a network, our method can reveal whether it was more likely the result of triadic closure or homophily. From this, we can decide if dense “communities” in the network are more likely the result of one or the other. Likewise, we can tell if the presence of “triangles” (groups of three nodes all connected to each other) is a direct result of triadic closure or homophily. This has important implications for the interpretation of network data and also for the prediction of missing or unobserved edges in the networks.Our methodology paves the way for a general, principled, and effective approach to disentangling local, global, and mesoscopic mechanisms of network formation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number011004
JournalPhysical Review X
Volume12
Issue number1
Early online date6 Jan 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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