Absence makes the heart grow fonder: social compensation when failure to interact risks weakening a relationship

Research output: Scientific - peer-reviewArticle

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
JournalEPJ DATA SCIENCE
Volume6
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Researchers

Research units

  • University of Oxford

Abstract

Social networks require active relationship maintenance if they are to be kept at a constant level of emotional closeness. For primates, including humans, failure to interact leads inexorably to a decline in relationship quality, and a consequent loss of the benefits that derive from individual relationships. As a result, many social species compensate for weakened relationships by investing more heavily in them. Here we study how humans behave in similar situations, using data from mobile call detail records from a European country. For the less frequent contacts between pairs of communicating individuals we observe a logarithmic dependence of the duration of the succeeding call on the time gap with the previous call. We find that such behaviour is likely when the individuals in these dyadic pairs have the same gender and are in the same age bracket as well as being geographically distant. Our results indicate that these pairs deliberately invest more time in communication so as to reinforce their social bonding and prevent their relationships decaying when these are threatened by lack of interaction.

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