A group of investigators at the Northeastern University and the University of Oxford says that mobile phone data are an abundant gold mine for extracting data on human reproductive strategies, as well as on their relationships and associated behaviors.
The team says that analyzing text message and call patterns can reveal gender differences between how men and women handle their main relationships (those with their spouses or significant others). Such studies also reveal how dominating attitudes change as the test subjects age.
This doesn't mean that researchers are reading your messages or tapping your phone calls. Rather, they are creating social networks between individuals, which contain data such as how many times someone called or texted someone else.
One of the most important discoveries the team made was that women tend to be more focused on their relationships with men during the time when they are reproductively active. What this implies is that men tend to be less involved in pair-bonding then women, during this interval.
Another finding is that women tend to shift their attention from taking care of their relationships with men to new connections with younger women, which researchers assume are their daughters, based on the data they had access to. This only happens as women age, and takes place slowly and smoothly.
An important aspect in relationship dynamics is that men, on average, shift the focus of their relationships a lot less often than women do, suggesting a more diffuse pattern in supporting bonds. Women, on the other hands, are more focused on individual bonds, which may explain their shift in preferences.
“Finally, fourth, our results provide strong evidence for the importance of female matrilineal relationships in human social organization,” the research team writes in a paper published by arXiv
There has been a tendency to emphasize the importance of male-male relationships in an essentially patrilineal form of social organization as defining human sociality, but our results tend to support the claim that mother-daughter relationships play a particularly seminal role in structuring human social relationships,” they add.
The investigation was carried out on mobile phone data surveying 1.4 million women and 1.8 million men in a European country. A total of 2 billion phone calls and nearly 500 million text messages were analyzed in all.