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The Challenges of Predicting Mob Behavior at Political Rallies


A political rally in Los Angeles earlier this year.

Zhengzhou University researchers have developed a model that can better predict social contagions that occur at political rallies than previous methods.

Credit: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Researchers at Zhengzhou University in China have developed a model that can better predict social contagions that occur at political rallies.

The team built upon an existing model, the Susceptible-Infected-Recovered (SIR) model, originally designed to study how infectious disease spreads; they adapted the model for political rallies by incorporating scales that account for individual personalities and ranges of emotional infection.

The team also factored in individual personality using a standard method for classifying traits, called OCEAN, which captures a person's openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

Using each individual's personality traits, the model assigns emotional values based on two different perspectives: in support of the organizer's political viewpoint or opposing it. This allows the model to simulate the flow of emotions through a crowd; it predicts which individuals will be drawn into the rally and which will walk away from the event.

From IEEE Spectrum
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