frank's blog

Connected, by Christakis/Fowler

Posted in ideas, Media by aldorf on December 1, 2009

The idea that everyone on the planet is separated by only an average of six degrees sounds a little too elegant to be true, and yet it seems to hold. The first experiment to confirm this came in the 1960s when psychologist Stanley Milgram asked several hundred people in Nebraska to send a letter to a stranger in Boston via someone they knew. On average, it took six people to get the letter to its destination. The experiment was repeated in 2002 by sociologist Duncan Watts on a global scale using email, with the same result. The world really is that small.

In their new book Connected, sociologist and physician Nicholas Christakis and political scientist James Fowler identify another immutable property of social networks that sits nicely alongside Milgram’s: behaviours, habits and other traits “ripple” along chains of friends and are contagious at up to three degrees of separation. Thus, my actions and moods – whether I’m happy or depressed, fat or thin, whether I smoke, even whether I vote in elections – affect my friends, my friends’ friends and my friends’ friends’ friends. Thereafter my influence fades away.

Read entire review by Michael Bond here.

Full description here.

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