What Do Centrality Measures Measure in Psychological Networks?

Laura F. Bringmann, Timon Elmer, Sacha Epskamp, Robert W. Krause, David Schoch, Marieke Wichers, Johanna T.W. Wigman, Evelien Snippe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

538 Scopus citations

Abstract

Centrality indices are a popular tool to analyze structural aspects of psychological networks. As centrality indices were originally developed in the context of social networks, it is unclear to what extent these indices are suitable in a psychological network context. In this article we critically examine several issues with the use of the most popular centrality indices in psychological networks: degree, betweenness, and closeness centrality. We show that problems with centrality indices discussed in the social network literature also apply to the psychological networks. Assumptions underlying centrality indices, such as presence of a flow and shortest paths, may not correspond with a general theory of how psychological variables relate to one another. Furthermore, the assumptions of node distinctiveness and node exchangeability may not hold in psychological networks. We conclude that, for psychological networks, betweenness and closeness centrality seem especially unsuitable as measures of node importance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)892-903
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Abnormal Psychology
Volume128
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 American Psychological Association

Keywords

  • centrality
  • network analysis
  • psychological networks
  • psychopathology
  • social networks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry

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