ScienceDaily (2010-09-03) — Individuals are more likely to acquire new health practices while living in networks with dense clusters of connections — that is, when in close contact with people they already know well
Social Networks Influence Health Behaviors
ScienceDaily (Sep. 3, 2010) — Scientists have long thought that social networks, which features many distant connections, or “long ties,” produces large-scale changes most quickly. But in a new study, Damon Centola, an assistant professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, has reached a different conclusion: Individuals are more likely to acquire new health practices while living in networks with dense clusters of connections — that is, when in close contact with people they already know well.
Researchers often regard these dense clusters of connections to be redundant when it comes to spreading information; networks featuring such clusters are considered less efficient than networks with a greater proportion of long ties. But getting people to change ingrained habits, Centola found, requires the extra reinforcement that comes from those redundancies. In other words, people need to hear a new idea multiple times before making a change.
“For about 35 years, wisdom in the social sciences has been that the more long ties there are in a network, the faster a thing will spread,” says Centola. “It’s startling to see that this is not always the case.” Centola’s paper on the subject, “The Spread of Behavior in an Online Social Network Experiment,” is published in the Sept. 3 issue of the journal Science.”
I haven’t read the research yet, so I am not sure whether this refers to online or in person social networks, but I know a lot of folks who create networks for themselves of RSS feeds for example, in the weight loss or dating arenas, and create a feed for themselves that contains links to their favorite content providers. Those folks check updates every day, maybe more often, to see what new insights are available from their favorite writers.
Any 12 step program is an example of a “dense cluster of connections” and I have seen many AA folks work very hard to make physical, emotional, and spiritual changes for themselves and then other folks who see the changes follow along.
In a 12 step program, folks are advised early on to get a sponser, and to find a home group, a meeting where an individual will see the same folks regularly and form some strong relationships, which definitely impacts health behaviors.
Does a Chamber of Commerce or a Trade Association count as a dense cluster of connections” and can we influence the health of our businesses? I think so. So let us get dense?