Thomas Maillart, Didier Sornette, Stefan Frei, Thomas Dubendorfer, Alexander Saichev



May 2, 2011, Physical Review E, vol. 83, Issue 5, id. 056101


The dynamics of technological, economic and social phenomena is controlled by how humans organize their daily tasks in response to both endogenous and exogenous stimulations. Queueing theory is believed to provide a generic answer to account for the often observed power-law distributions of waiting times before a task is fulfilled. However, the general validity of the power law and the nature of other regimes remain unsettled. Using anonymized data collected by Google at the World Wide Web level, we identify the existence of several additional regimes characterizing the time required for a population of Internet users to execute a given task after receiving a message. Depending on the under- or over-utilization of time by the population of users and the strength of their response to perturbations, the pure power law is found to be coextensive with an exponential regime (tasks are performed without too much delay) and with a crossover to an asymptotic plateau (some tasks are never performed). The characterization of the availability and efficiency of humans on their actions revealed by our study have important consequences to understand human decision-making, optimal designs of policies such as for Internet security, with spillovers to collective behaviors, crowds dynamics, and social epidemics.