The concepts of “peer pressure” and “running with the wrong crowd” are far from new. For quite some time, people have explicitly or implicitly explained their or other people’s behavior by referencing the influence that one’s social circle can bring to bear.
Nicholas Christakis is a leading researcher focusing on the ways in which the social networks that we are embedded in (friends, family, work, etc) directly influence our behavior, health, and happiness. Christakis recently presented at TED in February and the video was just made available this month:
Full disclosure: I have not read Christakis’ work–books, articles or otherwise (although his book Connected is on my list). However, that won’t stop me from commenting on it. Conceptually, I think this is fascinating research, particularly because modern technology allows for our social networks to be much larger and for us to have even greater exposure and interaction with first-degree members of our network, potentially amplifying the larger network’s influence on our behavior. Granted, if you reduce the hypothesis to its simplest form–that people are influenced by those in their social circle–it seems somewhat obvious. However, as with many things that we assume to be true the real revelation here is understanding the specific dynamics and mechanisms that make it so. A few questions/comments come to mind: Continue reading