Modeling social interactions: Identification, empirical methods and policy implications

Thumbnail Image
Penn collection
Operations, Information and Decisions Papers
Degree type
social interactions
social multiplier
peer effects
Interpersonal and Small Group Communication
Other Communication
Other Social and Behavioral Sciences
Social Psychology and Interaction
Grant number
Copyright date
Related resources
Hartmann, Wesley R
Manchanda, Puneet
Nair, Harikesh
Bothner, Matthew
Dodds, Peter
Godes, David
Hosanagar, kartik
Tucker, Catherine

Social interactions occur when agents in a network affect other agents’ choices directly, as opposed to via the intermediation of markets. The study of such interactions and the resultant outcomes has long been an area of interest across a wide variety of social sciences. With the advent of electronic media that facilitate and record such interactions, this interest has grown sharply in the business world as well. In this paper, we provide a brief summary of what is known so far, discuss the main challenges for researchers interested in this area, and provide a common vocabulary that will hopefully engender future (cross disciplinary) research. The paper considers the challenges of distinguishing actual causal social interactions from other phenomena that may lead to a false inference of causality. Further, we distinguish between two broadly defined types of social interactions that relate to how strongly interactions spread through a network. We also provide a very selective review of how insights from other disciplines can improve and inform modeling choices. Finally, we discuss how models of social interaction can be used to provide guidelines for marketing policy and conclude with thoughts on future research directions.

Date Range for Data Collection (Start Date)
Date Range for Data Collection (End Date)
Digital Object Identifier
Series name and number
Publication date
Journal title
Marketing Letters
Volume number
Issue number
Publisher DOI
Journal Issue
Recommended citation