US aca­demic stud­ies what grabs, holds China in­ter­est

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSSAMERICA - By JACK FREIFELDER In New York jack­freifelder@chi­nadai­lyusa. com

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.

Lai Yingcheng,

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