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Tracking Group Connectivity Through Natural Language Use


Have you ever wondered how our language usage can reveal our connections to groups? The rise of social media has led to the availability of vast archives of behavioral data, providing social scientists with an opportunity to track naturally occurring group identity processes. Researchers have developed and validated a language-based metric of group identity strength and demonstrated its potential in tracking identity processes in online communities across three studies.


In studies 1a-1c, researchers analyzed 873 individuals' connections to various groups using language markers of group identity strength: high affiliation and low cognitive processing or questioning. They developed an unquestioning affiliation index and applied it to in-class stream-of-consciousness essays of 2,161 college students in study 2. The index predicted self-reported university identity and the students' likelihood of remaining enrolled in college a year later. In study 3, the index was applied to naturalistic Reddit conversations of 270,784 people in two online communities of supporters of the 2016 presidential candidates. The index predicted how long people would remain in the group and revealed temporal shifts mirroring members' joining and leaving of groups. The results show promise in using language-based approaches to track and study group identity processes in online groups.




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