Geometric detection of hierarchical backbones in real networks

Hierarchies permeate the structure of real networks, whose nodes can be ranked according to different features. However, networks are far from treelike structures and the detection of hierarchical ordering remains a challenge, hindered by the small-world property and the presence of a large number of cycles, in particular clustering. Here, we use geometric representations of undirected networks to achieve an enriched interpretation of hierarchy that integrates features defining the popularity of nodes and similarity between them, such that the more similar a node is to a less popular neighbor the higher the hierarchical load of the relationship. The geometric approach allows us to measure the local contribution of nodes and links to the hierarchy within a unified framework. Additionally, we propose a link filtering method, the similarity filter, able to extract hierarchical backbones containing the links that represent statistically significant deviations with respect to the maximum entropy null model for geometric heterogeneous networks. We applied our geometric approach to the detection of similarity backbones of real networks in different domains and found that the backbones preserve local topological features at all scales. Interestingly, we also found that similarity backbones favor cooperation in evolutionary dynamics modeling social dilemmas.