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Can you Trust the Trend: Discovering Simpson's Paradoxes in Social Data

by   Nazanin Alipourfard, et al.
USC Information Sciences Institute

We investigate how Simpson's paradox affects analysis of trends in social data. According to the paradox, the trends observed in data that has been aggregated over an entire population may be different from, and even opposite to, those of the underlying subgroups. Failure to take this effect into account can lead analysis to wrong conclusions. We present a statistical method to automatically identify Simpson's paradox in data by comparing statistical trends in the aggregate data to those in the disaggregated subgroups. We apply the approach to data from Stack Exchange, a popular question-answering platform, to analyze factors affecting answerer performance, specifically, the likelihood that an answer written by a user will be accepted by the asker as the best answer to his or her question. Our analysis confirms a known Simpson's paradox and identifies several new instances. These paradoxes provide novel insights into user behavior on Stack Exchange.


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