Bounded Rationality in Scholarly Knowledge Discovery

Authors : Kristina Lerman, Nathan Hodas, Hao Wu

In an information-rich world, people’s time and attention must be divided among rapidly changing information sources and the diverse tasks demanded of them. How people decide which of the many sources, such as scientific articles or patents, to read and use in their own work affects dissemination of scholarly knowledge and adoption of innovation.

We analyze the choices people make about what information to propagate on the citation networks of Physical Review journals, US patents and legal opinions. We observe regularities in behavior consistent with human bounded rationality: rather than evaluate all available choices, people rely on simply cognitive heuristics to decide what information to attend to.

We demonstrate that these heuristics bias choices, so that people preferentially propagate information that is easier to discover, often because it is newer or more popular. However, we do not find evidence that popular sources help to amplify the spread of information beyond making it more salient.

Our paper provides novel evidence of the critical role that bounded rationality plays in the decisions to allocate attention in social communication.