Social Science

Differences promote spreading

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Science  03 Aug 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6401, pp. 464-465
DOI: 10.1126/science.361.6401.464-d

Infecting a human population with ideas or viruses depends on interpersonal contact. However, patterns of interactions can vary. For example, in the workplace, some people will regularly have their doors open in the afternoon, whereas others open their doors frequently for short periods throughout the day. Although it might seem that there would be one “optimal” pattern for diffusing information or spreading contagious disease within a population, Akbarpour and Jackson show, through simulations with random and real-world networks, that heterogenous patterns can favor spread. A combination of people who rarely alternate from being available or susceptible to being unavailable or recovered with people who frequently alternate between the two states maximized diffusion in a simple model.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 10.1073/pnas.1722089115 (2018).

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