Wesley R. Hartmann, Puneet Manchanda, Harikesh Nair, Matthew S. Bothner, Peter Dodds, David Godes, Kartik Hosanagar, and Catherine Tucker
Social interactions occur when agents in a network affect other agents’ choices directly, as opposed to via the intermediation of markets. The study of such interactions and the resultant outcomes has long been an area of interest across a wide variety of social sciences. With the advent of electronic media that facilitate and record such interactions, this interest has grown sharply in the business world as well. In this paper, we provide a brief summary of what is known so far, discuss the main challenges for researchers interested in this area, and provide a common vocabulary that will hopefully engender future (cross disciplinary) research. The paper considers the challenges of distinguishing actual causal social interactions from other phenomena that may lead to a false inference of causality. Further, we distinguish between two broadly defined types of social interactions that relate to how strongly interactions spread through a network. We also provide a very selective review of how insights from other disciplines can improve and inform modeling choices. Finally, we discuss how models of social interaction can be used to provide guidelines for marketing policy and conclude with thoughts on future research directions.