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The Spread of Behavior in an Online Social Network Experiment

Science  03 Sep 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5996, pp. 1194-1197
DOI: 10.1126/science.1185231

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Abstract

How do social networks affect the spread of behavior? A popular hypothesis states that networks with many clustered ties and a high degree of separation will be less effective for behavioral diffusion than networks in which locally redundant ties are rewired to provide shortcuts across the social space. A competing hypothesis argues that when behaviors require social reinforcement, a network with more clustering may be more advantageous, even if the network as a whole has a larger diameter. I investigated the effects of network structure on diffusion by studying the spread of health behavior through artificially structured online communities. Individual adoption was much more likely when participants received social reinforcement from multiple neighbors in the social network. The behavior spread farther and faster across clustered-lattice networks than across corresponding random networks.

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