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To me, the interesting question is not the "mind's capacity", but whether there may be cognitive biasses in perceiving networks. That's why the cognitive social structure work is relevant to this question. There is evidence that we humans see networks as more structured than they actually are (see Koehly & Pattison in Carrington, Scott and Wasserman, 2005; also Kumbasar et al, 1994, which they cite.) Casciaro did some interesting work on network perception in the 1990s. More recently, have a look at Igarashi and Kashima (2011) in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, involving some network perception experimental manipulations and perceptions of "group-ness". If you get down to specific types of network ties, then Lutz and Lakey and colleagues have done some interesting work in regard to social support networks, about the factors that lead individuals perceiving that a social support tie is present.
School of Psychological Sciences
The University of Melbourne
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