'Big data' reveals human interests, behavior

Tue, 2014-03-11

Information technology advances are leading to ever-growing accumulations of “big data,” making it feasible to quantify more things long thought immeasurable.

Arizona State University professor Ying-Cheng Lai and his research partners are combining expertise in computer science, engineering, mathematics, statistics and physics in analyzing big data to explore human-interest dynamics. They want to see if it’s possible to identify patterns in what motivates people to become interested in particular things, what makes them maintain certain interests and what causes them to lose interest.

“Big data now provides a platform for exploring the dynamics of why people change their minds about certain things,” Lai says. “Are there intrinsic rules that govern when something interests people, and what influences us to become interested?”

Learning what attracts and holds peoples’ interests is a door to better understanding and predicting human behavior – providing knowledge that can be valuable to business, economics, social sciences, health care, even national defense, Lai says.

Lai is a professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. He is working on the human-interest dynamics project with ASU electrical engineering research scientist Zi-Gang Huang and graduate student Zhi-Dan Zhao. Huang is also a researcher with the Institute of Computational Physics and Complex Systems at Lanzhou University in China. Zhao is also with the Web Sciences Center at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China.  Read more here  


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