Pham, Tuan Minh; Jan Korbel; Rudolf Hanel; and Stefan Thurner

The remarkable robustness of many social systems has been associated with a peculiar triangular structure in the underlying social networks. Triples of people that have three positive relations (e.g., friendship) between each other are strongly overrepresented. Triples with two negative relations (e.g., enmity) and one positive relation are also overrepresented, and triples with one or three negative relations are drastically suppressed. For almost a century, the mechanism behind these very specific ("balanced") triad statistics remained elusive. Here, we propose a simple realistic adaptive network model, where agents tend to minimize social tension that arises from dyadic interactions. Both opinions of agents and their signed links (positive or negative relations) are updated in the dynamics. The key aspect of the model resides in the fact that agents only need information about their local neighbors in the network and do not require (often unrealistic) higher-order network information for their relation and opinion updates. We demonstrate the quality of the model on detailed temporal relation data of a society of thousands of players of a massive multiplayer online game where we can observe triangle formation directly. It not only successfully predicts the distribution of triangle types but also explains empirical group size distributions, which are essential for social cohesion. We discuss the details of the phase diagrams behind the model and their parameter dependence, and we comment on to what extent the results might apply universally in societies.