Informant accuracy in social network data III: A comparison of triadic structure in behavioral and cognitive data

Peter D. Killworth, H. Russell Bernard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


This paper provides a comparison of the triadic-level structure inherent in behavioral and cognitive social network data taken on the same group, using a variety of groups whose communication could easily be monitored. It is found that many types of structure occur significantly more or less than chance in both behavioral and cognitive data, and providing that these are treated in similar ways, there is good agreement between the two structures. However, there are several ways to treat behavioral data, and these produce at least two essentially different structures. If cognitive and behavioral triads are compared, triad by triad, then there is virtually no agreement between them (even though they may both display the same structure on an overall triad census). Finally, as a demonstration of the dangers of relying solely on cognitive data, an unlikely null hypothesis is proposed. This asserts - for demonstration purposes - that, under many circumstances, behavioral structure never alters. Change in structure over time apparently occurs because of informant error in the reporting of the cognitive data. A pseudo-transition matrix, giving the probability that a triad is reported as one type when data are first taken, and a different type at a later date, is calculated. This compares reasonably with a genuine transition matrix evaluated for longitudinal cognitive data. It is believed that no data currently exist which can disprove this hypothesis, unlikely though it is. Much more accurate data are therefore necessary if any reliable theory of social structure is to be produced.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-46
Number of pages28
JournalSocial Networks
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1979
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences
  • General Psychology


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