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The Hidden Influence of Social Networks – Nicholas Christakis

Nicholas Christakis’s TED video “The Hidden Influence of Social Networks” explains how these networks affect people’s life temperaments, choices and experiences. Human social networks tend to form clusters as opposed to a homogeneous lattice. Christakis introduces three possible theories as to why social networks cluster: induction, which is similar to contagiousness, spreading influence; homophily, where similar demographics group together; and confounding, where people with similar experiences unite. A social norm generated in one person spreads to or groups with other connections. Therefore, obese persons more likely to be surrounded by other overweight or obese people than those who are not overweight.

Connections among social systems promote different properties in the network. A person’s experience and state of mind depends on the social network directly and indirectly surrounding him or her. Studying the architecture of an entire social network can help scientists study other forms of human behavior. In studying network effects on human emotion, latent emotions tend to spread to other people regardless of whether or not people experienced to emotion causing event firsthand. Unhappy people tend to be located at the edge of emotional networks more than happy individuals.

This video extends our studies in Networks because it explains how dynamic and influential social connections are to people’s experiences as opposed to individual experiences. Like individuals tend to cluster around each other, many into individual nets. Human beings operate as groups with large entities influencing the actions of individuals. Studying these social networks can help scientists understand other social phenomena like crime and epidemics.


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September 2015