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ERIC Number: EJ1136521
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2015-May
Pages: 23
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0049-1241
The Signal Importance of Noise
Macy, Michael; Tsvetkova, Milena
Sociological Methods & Research, v44 n2 p306-328 May 2015
Noise is widely regarded as a residual category--the unexplained variance in a linear model or the random disturbance of a predictable pattern. Accordingly, formal models often impose the simplifying assumption that the world is noise-free and social dynamics are deterministic. Where noise is assigned causal importance, it is often assumed to be a source of inefficiency, unpredictability, or heterogeneity. We review recent sociological studies that are noteworthy for demonstrating the theoretical importance of noise for understanding the dynamics of a complex system. Contrary to widely held assumptions, these studies identify conditions in which noise can increase efficiency and predictability and reduce diversity. We conclude with a methodological warning that deterministic assumptions are not an innocent simplification.
SAGE Publications. 2455 Teller Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91320. Tel: 800-818-7243; Tel: 805-499-9774; Fax: 800-583-2665; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: National Science Foundation (NSF)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: SES1260348