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Undertanding cyclic trends in social choices

Anish Das Sarma, Sreenivas Gollapudi, Rina Panigrahy, and Li Zhang


Motivated by trends in popularity of products, we present a formal model for studying trends in our choice of products in terms of three parameters: (1) their innate utility; (2) individual boredom associated with repeated usage of an item; and (3) social influences associated with the preferences from other people. Different from previous work, in this paper we introduce boredom to explain the cyclic pattern in individual and social choices. We formally model boredom and show that a rational individual would make cyclic choices when considering the boredom factor. Furthermore, we extend the model to social choices by showing that a society that votes for a particular style or product can be viewed as a single individual cycling through different choices.

We adopt a natural model of utility an individual derives from using an item, i.e., the utility of an item gets discounted by its repeated use and increases when the item is not used. We address the problem of optimally choosing items for usage, so as to maximize overall user satisfaction over a period of time. First we show that the simple greedy heuristic of always choosing the item with the maximum current composite utility can be arbitrarily worse than the optimal. Second, we prove that even with just a single individual, determining the optimal strategy for choosing items is NP-hard. Third, we show that a simple modification to the greedy algorithm is a provably close approximation to the optimal strategy. Finally, we present an experimental study over real-world data collected from query logs to compare our algorithms.


Publication typeInproceedings
Published inProc. ACM Conf on Web Search and Data Mining
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