### "Causal inference in social networks: A new hope?" (Friday at the Ann Arbor Statistics Seminar)

*Attention
conservation notice:* Self-promoting notice of a *very* academic
talk, at a university far from you, on a very recondite
topic, solving a problem that doesn't concern you under a set of
assumptions you don't understand, and wouldn't believe if I explained to
you.

I seem to be giving talks again:

- "Causal inference in social networks: A new hope?"
*Abstract:* Latent homophily generally makes it impossible to identify contagion or influence effects from observations on social networks. Sometimes, however, homophily also makes it possible to accurately infer nodes' latent attributes from their position in the larger network. I will lay out some assumptions on the network-growth process under which such inferences are good enough that they enable consistent and asymptotically unbiased estimates of the strength of social influence. Time permitting, I will also discuss the prospects for tracing out the "identification possibility frontier" for social contagion.
- Joint work with Edward McFowland III
*Time and place:* 11:30 am -- 12:30 pm on 8 February 2019, in 411 West Hall, Statistics Department, University of Michigan

--- The underlying paper grows out of an idea that was in
my paper with Andrew Thomas on social contagion: latent
homophily is the problem with causal inference in social networks, but latent
homophily *also* leads to large-scale structure in networks, and allows
us to infer latent attributes from the graph; we call this "community
discovery". Some years later, my student Hannah Worrall, in
her senior thesis,
did an extensive series of simulations showing that controlling for estimated
community membership lets us infer the strength of social inference, in regimes
where community-discovery is consistent. Some years after that, Ed asked me
what I was wanting to work on, but wasn't, so I explained about what seemed to
me the difficulties in doing some proper theory about this. As I did so,
the difficulties dissolved under Ed's questioning, and the
paper followed very naturally. We're
now revising in reply to referees (Ed, if you're reading this --- I
really *am* working on it!), which
is as pleasant as
always. But I am very pleased to have finally made a *positive*
contribution to a problem which has occupied me for many years.

~~Constant Conjunction~~ Necessary Connexion;
Enigmas of Chance;
Networks;
Self-Centered

Posted at February 05, 2019 21:04 | permanent link