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• A significant number of reported exchange ties are contested.
• Common practices inappropriately eliminate or symmetrize them.
• We propose two new methods for handling contested exchange ties.
• The key is to measure actors’ credibility from their asymmetric connections.
• Simulated and empirical examples show our methods are effective.
Exchanges of information, goods, and services are an essential part of human relations. However, a significant number of reported exchange ties tend to be contested: the reports of the sender and the receiver in an exchange do not concur with each other. To accurately understand the exchange ties between actors and the properties of the associated exchange networks, it is important to address such disagreement. Common practices either eliminate the contested reports or symmetrize them. Neither of them is ideal, as both underuse valuable information in the reports. In this paper, we propose new methods for handling contested exchange ties. The key idea is to measure actors’ credibility based on their asymmetric connections. For example, an actor is less credible the more contested ties she or he has. Using the credibility scores thus calculated, we develop two methods for handling contested ties. The first method is deterministic: it takes the report of the more credible actor as a reflection of the true exchange status between two actors. The second method is stochastic: it assumes the true exchange status between two actors is a random draw from their reports with probabilities proportional to their credibility. We illustrate the above methods by analyzing contested reports in cigarette exchange networks among middle school students in China and social and economic exchange networks among rural households in South Africa. The results show that our methods provide more reasonable corrections to contested reports than previous methods.
Journal: Social Networks - Volume 40, January 2015, Pages 25–33