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Sci Rep. 2014 Oct 6;4:6526. doi: 10.1038/srep06526.

Fractal multi-level organisation of human groups in a virtual world.

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Section for Science of Complex Systems; Medical University of Vienna; Spitalgasse 23; A-1090; Austria.
Department of Management, Technology and Economics, ETH Zürich, Scheuchzerstrasse 7, CH-8092 Zurich, Switzerland.
1] Section for Science of Complex Systems; Medical University of Vienna; Spitalgasse 23; A-1090; Austria [2] Santa Fe Institute; 1399 Hyde Park Road; Santa Fe; NM 87501; USA [3] IIASA, Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg; Austria.


Humans are fundamentally social. They form societies which consist of hierarchically layered nested groups of various quality, size, and structure. The anthropologic literature has classified these groups as support cliques, sympathy groups, bands, cognitive groups, tribes, linguistic groups, and so on. Anthropologic data show that, on average, each group consists of approximately three subgroups. However, a general understanding of the structural dependence of groups at different layers is largely missing. We extend these early findings to a very large high-precision large-scale internet-based social network data. We analyse the organisational structure of a complete, multi-relational, large social multiplex network of a human society consisting of about 400,000 odd players of an open-ended massive multiplayer online game for which we know all about their various group memberships at different layers. Remarkably, the online players' society exhibits the same type of structured hierarchical layers as found in hunter-gatherer societies. Our findings suggest that the hierarchical organisation of human society is deeply nested in human psychology.

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