Homophily Can Create Disadvantages

24/07/2018

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RWTH researcher develops formula to better connect minority and majority groups.

"Birds of a feather flock together" is a well-known proverb that has received scientific backing. Academic studies have shown that people have a tendency to associate and bond with others who are similar to themselves. This mutual attraction due to similarity is called "homophily."

Perceived similarity can be based on attributes such as gender, ethnic origin, socioeconomic status, or educational background. However, according to Professor Markus Strohmaier, Chair of Computational Social Science and Humanities at RWTH Aachen University, "homophily can put minority groups at a disadvantage, as it limits their ability to form ties with a majority group."

In collaboration with researcher Dr. Fariba Karimi and colleagues from GESIS-Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences, the team has developed a social network model with tunable homophily and group sizes. "With the help of this model," explains Karimi, "it becomes possible to investigate and quantify the effect of homophily on the visibility of minorities to reduce algorithmic biases and establish more fairness in society."

The research has been published in the academic Journal 'Nature': Homophily Influences Ranking of Minorities in Social Networks