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Building blocks of communication networks in times of crises: Emotion-exchange motifs

In this paper, we discuss how emotional messages sent during crisis events shape the communication patterns on Twitter. To this end, we analyzed a data-set consisting of 23.3 million tweets that have been sent during eighteen different crisis events in ten different countries. In particular, we use the novel concept of emotion-exchange motifs to uncover the elementary building blocks of complex emotion-exchange networks.

Our results show that not all negative emotions are exchanged in the same way, nor do they result in the same communication structures. For example, we found that there is a specific set of emotions which are sent in response to messages including sadness and disgust (e.g., sadness attracts joy/love, while disgust attracts anger). The exchange of fear, on the other hand, is highly representative for its reciprocity and is highly associated with an information seeking behavior.

We also found that the expression of positivity is characteristic for the emergence of a cyclic triad communication pattern. In contrast, the exchange of negative emotions is characteristic for a triadic communication structure that not only shows a broadcasting behavior but also reciprocity.

Compared to single-emotion exchanges within a triadic pattern, the exchange of a mixture of emotions leads to more complex communication structures.

E. Kusen, M. Strembeck, Building blocks of communication networks in times of crises: Emotion-exchange motifs, Computers in Human Behaviour 123 (2021) 106883

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