The study of interactions in online game recently proved an 80-year-old psychological theory, confirming the idea that "a friend of my enemy, is my enemy." The theory is known as Structural Balance theory, which means "individuals tend to avoid stress-causing relationships when they develop a society resulting in more stable social networks," according to an Imperial College London press release .
The study analyzed the relationships between 300,000 players in the online game Pardus , an open-ended virtual universe game. In this simulated society, players make friends and enemies, fight and trade.
"I find it fascinating to understand how we all interact with one another to form complex social networks. I think it is astounding that I'm this tiny point in such an enormous network of people. Our new study reveals in more detail than ever before the key ingredients that make these networks stable," said Renaud Lamblotte, one authors of the study from the Institute for Mathematical Sciences at Imperial College London.
The researchers, who were from Imperial College, the Medical University of Vienna and the Santa Fe Institute, analyzed data from the individual networks and from the larger network perspective. They found that positive relationships were more likely to manifest themselves and be reciprocated than negative sentiments.
"For example, if player A declares player B to be their friend, player B is likely to do the same. If player A declares player B to be their enemy, however, player B is not likely to reciprocate," according to the study.
How does that translate to a virtual game? Some of the connections between players are positive, like friendship, communication and trade, while others are more negative and might include hostility, aggression and punishment.
Players who were "friends" were more likely to have overlapping networks and communicate with one another, while hostility and trade didn't overlap -- meaning enemies tended to avoid each other and choose not to trade with one another.
"This may seem like an obvious finding, as we would all prefer to communicate more with people we like. However, nobody has shown the evidence for this theory on such a large scale before."
The study's researchers are working to apply their mathematical tools to larger networks so that they can study the communications between million sof people using cell phone data, according to the press release.
The paper regarding the study can be found in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences .