Emergence of scaling in human-interest dynamics

Zhi Dan Zhao, Zimo Yang, Zike Zhang, Tao Zhou, Zi Gang Huang, Ying-Cheng Lai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Human behaviors are often driven by human interests. Despite intense recent efforts in exploring the dynamics of human behaviors, little is known about human-interest dynamics, partly due to the extreme difficulty in accessing the human mind from observations. However, the availability of large-scale data, such as those from e-commerce and smart-phone communications, makes it possible to probe into and quantify the dynamics of human interest. Using three prototypical "Big Data" sets, we investigate the scaling behaviors associated with human-interest dynamics. In particular, from the data sets we uncover fat-tailed (possibly power-law) distributions associated with the three basic quantities: (1) the length of continuous interest, (2) the return time of visiting certain interest, and (3) interest ranking and transition. We argue that there are three basic ingredients underlying human-interest dynamics: preferential return to previously visited interests, inertial effect, and exploration of new interests. We develop a biased random-walk model, incorporating the three ingredients, to account for the observed fat-tailed distributions. Our study represents the first attempt to understand the dynamical processes underlying human interest, which has significant applications in science and engineering, commerce, as well as defense, in terms of specific tasks such as recommendation and human-behavior prediction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3472
JournalScientific reports
StatePublished - Dec 11 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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