An Experimental Study of the Coloring Problem on Human Subject Networks

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Science  11 Aug 2006:
Vol. 313, Issue 5788, pp. 824-827
DOI: 10.1126/science.1127207

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Theoretical work suggests that structural properties of naturally occurring networks are important in shaping behavior and dynamics. However, the relationships between structure and behavior are difficult to establish through empirical studies, because the networks in such studies are typically fixed. We studied networks of human subjects attempting to solve the graph or network coloring problem, which models settings in which it is desirable to distinguish one's behavior from that of one's network neighbors. Networks generated by preferential attachment made solving the coloring problem more difficult than did networks based on cyclical structures, and “small worlds” networks were easier still. We also showed that providing more information can have opposite effects on performance, depending on network structure.

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