Modeling Spread of Preferences in Social Networks for Sampling-based Preference Aggregation

Swapnil Dhamal, Rohith D. Vallam, Y. Narahari

Given a large population, it is an intensive task to gather individual preferences over a set of alternatives and arrive at an aggregate or collective preference of the population. We show that social network underlying the population can be harnessed to accomplish this task effectively, by sampling preferences of a small subset of representative nodes. We first develop a Facebook app to create a dataset consisting of preferences of nodes and the underlying social network, using which, we develop models that capture how preferences are distributed among nodes in a typical social network. We hence propose an appropriate objective function for the problem of selecting best representative nodes. We devise two algorithms, namely, Greedy-min which provides a performance guarantee for a wide class of popular voting rules, and Greedy-sum which exhibits excellent performance in practice. We compare the performance of these proposed algorithms against random-polling and popular centrality measures, and provide a detailed analysis of the obtained results. Our analysis suggests that selecting representatives using social network information is advantageous for aggregating preferences related to personal topics (e.g., lifestyle), while random polling with a reasonable sample size is good enough for aggregating preferences related to social topics (e.g., government policies).

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