So you think you’re so important?

The other day my colleague Regina Birner (IFPRI) asked me: “Do you think people generally overestimate their own influence (when drawing Net-Maps and setting up influence towers)?”

Hm, good question. It’s been shown by other social network analysts (plus, it’s somehow logical) that most people over-represent their own connectedness in a network: They know all of their own links but only some of the links other people have. So anytime you ask someone to draw a network that he or she is involved in, expect your artist to be in the midst of things and representing himself or herself as more central than other people would think they are (I have seen exceptions to this rule, though).

Now is the same true for influence towers? Do people in general think they are more influential than other people would think they are? From my experience I’d say it’s not that easy. There are those who think they are the center of the universe and consequently over-estimate their own influence. Then there are others who think it’s socially expected to be modest (or who actually are, for that matter) and they will underestimate their influence. One interviewee even refused to rate both, her own organization and that of the interviewer.

I have no quantitative analysis of this yet, so this is more of a gut feeling after doing a lot of interviews: Most interviewees seem to be rather spot on when rating their own influence and tend to agree with their network peers. I hope Regina and I find a way to launch a study big enough to do some more rigorous testing of this and other questions about reliability, replicability, interviewer bias and other aspects of Net-Map that make quantitatively oriented researchers nervous…

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