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Social Networks Science

Happiness May Be Catching 176

Posted by kdawson
from the little-help-from-my-friends dept.
chrb writes "The NY Times Magazine has an interesting article about research, based on the long-running Framingham Heart Study, modeling real world social networks. It seems that tendencies to be happy, not to smoke, and not to become obese are passed between nodes in a directed graph in a way that suggests such concepts are 'contagious.' Well-connected nodes in the graph (i.e., people with more friends) are more likely to be happier than less-connected nodes, even when the edges represent more distant friendships. Individuals quitting smoking, or becoming obese, influence not only their immediately connected friends but also friends of friends, with the effect sometimes skipping the intermediary node. The contagion effect is most noticeable when a tendency is passed from one person to another of the same sex — friends of the opposite sex, including spouses, are not as influential."
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Happiness May Be Catching

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  • by Xerfas (1625945) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @04:43AM (#29437631) Journal
    but it's quite important to be able through research and testgroups to actually show that it's true. Not only on this subject but on almost all subjects. Most of us know this for a fact, but sometimes it's nice to know the reason why a certain feeling like happiness suddenly shows for no apparent reason more then that your friends are happy. I have a friend who just got out of a mental institution whom I have been worried about for quite some time, now that she is out in the real world and feels better I can honestly say that my days have improved a lot. Not having to worry and this has affected people around me because I'm a happier person again. Rant ends here..
  • by Sobrique (543255) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @04:49AM (#29437655) Homepage
    Peer pressure isn't a new phenomenon. Groups mutually conform, as part of their group identity. Which can be mutually positive, and can be mutually destructive. Particularly drinking/drug use tends to increase in much the same way.
    I've also run into the 'domino wave' of couples getting married as well - you seem to get several over the course of about a year, and the same with dropping sproglets.
  • by LKM (227954) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @05:17AM (#29437765) Homepage
    I find it amazing that you call the study a waste because everybody already knew what the results would be, yet then immediately contradict the results of the study.
  • by Memroid (898199) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @05:32AM (#29437825)

    tendencies to be happy, not to smoke, and not to become obese are passed between nodes in a directed graph

    Wouldn't it be more likely that these people that are happy, athletic, and don't smoke tend to make friends with other people like them, as opposed to this suggestion of viral happiness? I mean it seems pretty obvious that people who don't smoke are going to have a higher percentage of friends that don't smoke than those who do smoke. It's called a "lifestyle."

  • Re:Hmmn. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by chrb (1083577) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @06:10AM (#29438009)

    From the previous story on male juvenile delinquent behaviour being contagious people made the same "correlation is not causation" statement. I think that at this point the majority of Slashdot readers are well aware that correlation is not causation, so I'll just copy/paste an appropriate response [slashdot.org]:

    "correlationdoesnnotnecessarilymeancausation

    Indeed, which is why the vast majority of studies that get tagged by the moronic "correlationisnotcausation" involve some application of Mill's Methods and/or statistical and theoretical inference to demonstrate causation based on the observed correlations.

    What gets reported is the correlation, because reporters are even dumber than /. taggers, but the researchers generally have thought a little bit about elementary logical errors somewhere along the path of their experiment design.

    The tag is particularly idiotic when you consider that every correlation is caused by something, so the OP here is absolutely correct: if you really believe that there is no relationship whatsoever between correlation and causation, such that you can reflexively dismiss every reported correlation with this little snippet of nonsense, then you're pretty much committed to nothing being caused by anything.

    Tagging stories this way is completely vacuous. All it tells us is that you haven't read the study or considered whether the usual methods have been employed to properly infer causation from correlation. It would be as useful and relevant to tag all stories with "theskyisblue", which is true in one sense (although the sky happens to be overcast where I am right now) but is only true in a way that is a) known by everyone and b) adds nothing of value to the discussion."

  • by Chapter80 (926879) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @06:47AM (#29438207)

    If there's ever a case for the statement "Correlation does not equal Causation", this is it.

    As a non-smoker, why would I hang around with smokers? I quit; I hate that smell, and don't want to be near it.
    As a fitness buff, why would I hang around with obese people? It's not like I meet them at the gym!
    As a happy person, why would I hang around with Debbie Downer? [hulu.com] Life's too short!

  • by smoker2 (750216) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @07:07AM (#29438303) Homepage Journal
    That is peer pressure. You think you have to know an individual to be influenced by them ? Peers are people in the same social grouping, not social group. i.e. all 16 year olds who like certain types of music, all retired people who buy at certain stores. They do not have to personally know all the other members of the group. In your example, I doubt that the 2 guys were doing their act in front of a group of pensioners. They were doing it to impress members of their age / peer group who they wanted to attract.
  • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @07:25AM (#29438411) Journal

    Yeah, yeah, yeah... the knee jerk correlation is not causation. And I am sure you read the study to see how they accounted for this, right? You looked at their methodolgy and made sure that they were not looking at how habits changed over time (for example in the article: At the time, her cigarette habit didn't seem like a problem; most of her friends also smoked socially. But in the late 1980s, a few of them began to quit, and pretty soon Eileen felt awkward holding a cigarette off to one side when out at a restaurant. She quit, too, and within a few years nobody she knew smoked anymore.
    ) , and other factors that could explain this. And I am sure that at the end of your research you found that a grad student just plunked some nmbers into an Excel spreasheet and used the built in statistical function.

    Yup, a long-term study spends significant time and resources researching something to come to a conclusion. But with your keen perception and research skills, you have totally debunked it. And the slashtards mod it up to +5.
     

  • by chrb (1083577) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @07:40AM (#29438545)

    From the previous story on male juvenile delinquent behaviour being contagious people made the same "correlation is not causation" statement. I think that at this point the majority of Slashdot readers are well aware that correlation is not causation, so I'll just copy/paste (again) an appropriate response [slashdot.org]:

    " correlationdoesnnotnecessarilymeancausation

    Indeed, which is why the vast majority of studies that get tagged by the moronic "correlationisnotcausation" involve some application of Mill's Methods and/or statistical and theoretical inference to demonstrate causation based on the observed correlations.

    What gets reported is the correlation, because reporters are even dumber than /. taggers, but the researchers generally have thought a little bit about elementary logical errors somewhere along the path of their experiment design.

    The tag is particularly idiotic when you consider that every correlation is caused by something, so the OP here is absolutely correct: if you really believe that there is no relationship whatsoever between correlation and causation, such that you can reflexively dismiss every reported correlation with this little snippet of nonsense, then you're pretty much committed to nothing being caused by anything.

    Tagging stories this way is completely vacuous. All it tells us is that you haven't read the study or considered whether the usual methods have been employed to properly infer causation from correlation. It would be as useful and relevant to tag all stories with "theskyisblue", which is true in one sense (although the sky happens to be overcast where I am right now) but is only true in a way that is a) known by everyone and b) adds nothing of value to the discussion."

  • by stewbee (1019450) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @07:44AM (#29438581)
    Interesting response. Not trying to troll here. My wife is a scientist, so she has partially warped my mind to think like this. You realize that you yourself have made a generalization that on the surface seems quite plausible. Do you have any direct proof in support of your hypothesis, which I will assume is "Essentially man is a social animal and has an inbuilt desire to fit in with the society that surrounds him/her" Have you found any quotable research showing that your hypothesis has already been proven?

    My point here is that until you actually do the research, you can generalize all you want, but that doesn't make it right. Everyone has some sort of anecdotal evidence which could seem to invalidate some research, but does that evidence fall outside of 3 standard deviations for example? Does your anecdotal evidence even have any relation to the original experiment

    I am reminded of a recent Daily Show where John Oliver interviewed two different scientists about which primates humans most resemble. (I would link to this, but I am at work and can't get to comedy central). One scientist was arguing that humans were more closely related to Orangutans whereas the other scientist was going with the generally accepted Chimpanzee relationship. John Oliver was trying to get the 'Chimp' scientist to put down the other scientist's research with a 'yo momma' joke. John Oliver Gave the lead in "Yo research is so whack...". The 'Chimp' scientist said, "that it fails to verify the hypothesis".

    This is a long way of saying that science is done to find things that seem possibly painfully obvious, and to validate it through experimentation.
  • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @07:46AM (#29438605) Journal

    No, dipshit. I am making fun of your research skills. You didn't even bother reading the article, much less the original research, yet you see yourself fit to "debunk" it.

    You can't even read the criticism against you correctly. How do you think you are fit to judge this study.

    Go read this comment that was pointed out by another reader: http://science.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1306647&cid=28734109 [slashdot.org]

    It does a better job than I did of why your post is intellectually void.

  • by kno3 (1327725) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @07:50AM (#29438633)
    You completely misunderstood his post.
    His point was that grad students conducting a long term research project probably would have thought about this and would have designed their experiments and analysis accordingly. Simply writing off the study by saying "Correlation does not equal Causation" is unfair and, unfortunately for Chapter80, demonstrates a certain amount idiocy.
  • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @08:32AM (#29439113) Journal

    Let's recap

    1) Data from a study which has been going on for 60 years is analyzed. Researchers reach certain conclusions.
    2) Poster who admittedly did not even read the article, much less the study says this is a prime example of correlation is not causation.
    3) You support #2 as some studies are flawed.
    4) You admit you have not looked at the study

    So, my question... what study could possibly EVER make it past your lack of rigor? Seriously. Please answer this question. No matter how well designed, you and other like you will criticize it. There is no way to defend as you won't take the time to properly analyze the methodology. Yet, despite not taking the time, you feel qualified to discount it.

    "Hi, I don't believe in global warming cuz last winter was so cold (or maybe it was the year before). No, I don't care about global data for 50 years, cuz those guys are pointy haired, librul, academics".

  • by Sobrique (543255) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @08:40AM (#29439239) Homepage
    You would seem to be correct. But I think that's less about happiness, than about how one defines success. Success is how much you exceed expectations by. Your expectations are set by looking at your 'peers'. Therefore to be 'successful' you need to be doing better than your peers are. Successful in turn, tends to promote feelings of contentment and happiness, because people feel that 'things could be worse'. More enlightened will realise what utter hogwash this is, but most will still go to work tomorrow, to work for a crust, to support their family/buy their house anyway.
  • Re:Duh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by coastwalker (307620) <acoastwalker&hotmail,com> on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @08:48AM (#29439331) Homepage

    What a load of cobblers this report is. The connections are real but they are not causal. Smokers tend to like other smokers and avoid the ranting anti smoking brigade. These researchers are not worth the food that has been wasted on them. Happiness is not a universal measurement in any case, there are different kinds of happiness.

  • by Belial6 (794905) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @09:52AM (#29440265)
    Given the amount of money to be made by both sides of the Global Warming debate, as well as the huge amount of obviously and verifiably inaccurate information spewed by both sides of the Global warming debate, I don't think that it is the subject you really want to use as a way to mock your opponents.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @10:08AM (#29440471)

    Actually, the GP post was spot on. The apparently angry poster who used name calling such as slashtards and dipshit claimed to know that the articulate original poster had not read the article, and created a knee jerk reaction, without any evidence of this.

    Every one of his/her arguments - that it was knee jerk, that the OP didn't read the article, and that somehow showing years of correlation somehow magically addresses causation was unsupported.

    And then s/he apparently blew a gasket and did further name calling when s/he was called on exactly the point that s/he was trying to make.

    Y'all should get out of your parents' basement sometime. Life isn't that serious.

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