Let me have men about me who are (not) fat

Social network maps reveal many things. They tell you who the super-connectors and the corollary isolates are. They may uncover connections and chasms that are potentially problematic. And studied over time they also tell the movements or history of the networks. What I find interesting about this TED talk by Harvard University social scientist Nicholas Christakis is that social networks also have an underlying contagion effect. People who are connected to each other are more likely to share similar attitudes, values and behaviours. And the closer you are with someone, the more similar you are likely to be. So if you and I are tight, then if I’m happy you’re more likely to be happy. If I’m fat then you’re more likely to be pleasantly plump. If Julius Caesar had known about this contagion effect, would he still have wanted to have around him men who are fat?

1 Comment so far

Patrick lambe

What’s interesting about the research this is based on is that such contagion can spread by up to three degrees of separation - you may not be associating directly with fat/depressed/optimistic people, but you can, apparently be influenced by friends of friends that you don;t even know directly. Another observation was that highly connected social networks can be vulnerable to “emotional epidemics” especially when under stress. The Christakis Fowler book behind this is http://www.amazon.com/Connected-Surprising-Power-Social-Networks/dp/0316036145

Posted on May 11, 2010 at 01:49 PM | Comment permalink

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