US academic studies what grabs, holds China interest
Discovering what attracts and holds people’s interest in order to better understand and predict human behavior is the focus of a project by Arizona State University (ASU) professor Lai Yingcheng and colleagues, some of whom are in China.
“Are there intrinsic rules that govern when something interests people, and what influences us to become interested?” Lai said Tuesday in an ASU press release. “Big data now provides a platform for exploring the dynamics of why people change their minds about certain things.”
Working with Lai, a professor of electrical engineering at ASU’s School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering (ECEE), on the project are ASU electrical engineering research scientist Huang Zigang, graduate student Zhao Zhidan and researchers Zhang Zimo, Zhou Tao and Zhang Zike, who are based in China.
Huang, in addition to his work at ASU, also serves as a researcher at Lanzhou University in Lanzhou, Gansu province, while Zhao and the three China-based research associates are all affiliated with the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China (UESTC), an electronics-centered multidisciplinary research university in Chengdu.
The six- man research team is using their combined expertise in computer science, engineering, mathematics, statistics and physics to explore the growing field of human-interest dynamics.
The team also collaborated on a Dec 11 research report titled, Emergence of scaling in human-interest dynamics, which was published in Scientific Reports, an online open access scientific journal published by the Nature Publishing Group, the publishing company that is responsible for Scientific American.
As the report states, human behaviors are “driven by human interests,” and despite efforts to explore the dynamics of human behavior, “little is known about human-interest dynamics, partly due to the extreme difficulty in accessing the human mind from observations.”
However, the availability of large-scale data makes it possible to probe into and quantify the dynamics of human interest, according to Lai.
The proje c t, w h i ch endeavors to glean information about human-interest dynamics from the analysis of big data sets, could yield results that are applicable to business, economics, social sciences, healthcare, and even national defense, he said.
e team is working with data sets being provided by three large companies in China, including information from e-commerce websites Douban and Taobao Marketplace, according to the March 11 press release.
Lai, who has a doctorate in physics, said large sets of data could help scientists gather information about people’s decision-making processes through a connection called “scaling relations”.
Scaling relations, in this case, allow researchers to use microscopic interactions to learn information about how macroscopic variables depend on one another.
“It is difficult to pin down the exact relationships between all the particles and how all the variables are changing, particularly when changes in the microscopic particles are having an impact on a large macroscopic system,” Lai said.