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FEATURE ARTICLE

To Signal Is Human

Real-time data mining unmasks the power of imitation, kith and charisma in our face-to-face social networks

Alex (Sandy) Pentland

2010-05PentlandF1.jpgClick to Enlarge ImageSocial psychologists have long observed that humans have a reliable ability to “read” each other. Now evidence is growing that we accomplish this through social signaling, an ancient system of communication that depends on non-verbal communication rather than speech. Pentland and colleagues have concluded that they can often predict outcomes of interactions between people when they observe and quantify these signals. Recent advances in monitoring technology and in computing capabilities make this data collection and analysis—which Pentland calls “reality mining”—possible.


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