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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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  • Duh (Score:4, Funny)

    by Jurily (900488) <jurily.gmail@com> on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @05:36AM (#29437611)

    This is like that $8m study that found out men think differently than women.

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

      Anybody who's had a family knows that happiness, as well as its opposite, are "catching".

    • Yeah, I know! If we didn't have this study then we wouldn't know the best way to keep people miserable.

    • 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 MyLongNickName (822545) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @08:25AM (#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.
         

        • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

          by Chapter80 (926879)

          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.

          Let me get this straight.

          The premise of your post is that there's somehow a correlation between making the statement "Correlation does not equal Causation" and poor research?

          And you are saying that poor research is the cause of making that statement?

          Good work, Sherlock. Is there any irony here?

          • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @08:46AM (#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.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by kno3 (1327725)
            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.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by lapsed (1610061)
          His criticism is valid. Despite researchers' methodological rigour, social network analysis can identify causation that just doesn't exist. One study [bmj.com], using the same design that had previously identified obesity as being contagious or caused by an individual's social network, found that height, headaches and acne were similarly contagious. Height could be a good predictor of friends' height but your height won't be changed by your friends' heights. Granted, I haven't read the article and I'm not qualified t
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            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

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Belial6 (794905)
              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.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by chrb (1083577)

        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

      • by nedlohs (1335013)

        Did you read the study to see if they managed to account for that appropriately?

        Or are you just ranting without actually checking what they did?

      • by rm999 (775449)

        Yes, the article goes into this on page 6. "There are at least two other possible explanations. One is "homophily," the tendency of people to gravitate toward others who are like them." They go on to explain that many scientists think the study did not properly account for this.

        I agree with you; I generally do not hang out with fat people, people who smoke (other than socially), or people who are not generally happy. I remember in College I briefly tried hanging out with a group that was generally medicated

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by coastwalker (307620)

      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 Twinbee (767046)

        there are different kinds of happiness

        Which can be averaged out (?).

        Or maybe a single type of happiness, except over different time spans (expectation of future happiness etc.).

        • Over time yes why not, the fruition of plans, your business succeeds after a long struggle. Happiness is often confused with pleasure so a lack of pleasure is confused with unhappiness, but you might pass your exams after a hard slog. The report is talking about social interaction as the only measure of human happiness and its certainly true that solitary confinement is bad for your mental health. But insisting that the only way to happiness is a certain kind of social life is unrealistic. Humans are pretty

  • Your mom drilled it into your head, when she asked if you'd jump off a bridge if all of your friends are. Yet more ridiculous waste of scarce research funding. Also, being far less connected is better than being connected to lots of *idiots*.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by 91degrees (207121)
      Your mom drilled it into your head, when she asked if you'd jump off a bridge if all of your friends are.

      Well, would you? [wikipedia.org].

      The only thing you know from your reasoning is an anecdotal story that people don't follow the crowd. One that appears to be demonstrably false.
      • by thannine (576719)

        The only thing you know from your reasoning is an anecdotal story that people don't follow the crowd. One that appears to be demonstrably false.

        Are you being idiot on purpose? If your mom asks you that question, it's because you KEEP DOING WHATEVER YOUR FRIENDS DO. The anecdotal story is demonstrating the fact the people know already that friends affect your behavior, you "copy" your friends.

    • by LKM (227954) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @06:17AM (#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 nedlohs (1335013)

        Where is the contradiction?

        The article is about a study claiming that people are influenced by others - that happy people make other people happy, that fat people make other fat, etc, etc. Which he says is obvious.

        And a common saying that says that exact same thing (that people do what their friends do). Which seems to reinforce the obviousness.

        Of course studying the obvious is worthwhile - since when things aren't the way everyone thinks they are you can get interesting (and maybe even useful) results.

        • Actually, this is the opposite of obvious research: it's research that totally misses the obvious point.

          People who are happy generally work to get through all the bad shit internally, without passing it on to others, and to pass the good shit on to others, and to gratefully accept the good shit from others, without accepting their issues and baggage. Likewise, people who are unhappy have usually started focusing on negativity, rejecting friendships and help, etc., until they're lonely and depressed.

          The art

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Hi Seumas,

      This is NOT a waste of money. This study began in 1948 to discover causes of cardiovascular disease. The data was very broad and included health habits, diet, and sociological information. This "study" simply poured through the already existing data to find other interesting bit of information.

      So, while some money might have been spent, this was more of an anlysis of existing information. In some ways, it is a money savings as no new study needed to be conducted to glean this information.

      If you ar

  • by Xerfas (1625945) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @05:43AM (#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 Thanshin (1188877) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @06:28AM (#29437805)

      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.

      As hollywood taught us, that story has only a discrete amount of possible endings:

      - Your friend will get into your house tonight and kill you. With an axe.
      - Your friend is actually you, as you'll discover waking up covered in dry red stains and possibly a dead animal next to you.
      - Your friend is now a vampire.

      Notice how all those plots can be intermingled seamlessly for the sequels; also, as hollywood taught us.

      • by Xerfas (1625945)
        Well she does seem a bit more pale lately and she never wants to come over for dinner unless she gets meat and lots of it. We have only talked during nights after she got out and she sometimes have this "crazy stare" when she says she is hungry. Last night she was out riding alone and saw a deer who ran away as she put it "because she was so ugly", but it could have been "because it felt she was so hungry".
        • by Thanshin (1188877)

          Well she does seem a bit more pale lately and she never wants to come over for dinner unless she gets meat and lots of it. We have only talked during nights after she got out and she sometimes have this "crazy stare" when she says she is hungry. Last night she was out riding alone and saw a deer who ran away as she put it "because she was so ugly", but it could have been "because it felt she was so hungry".

          Oh god!

          You mean...

          She could be...

          A robot!?

          • by Xerfas (1625945)
            My best guess so far is that she has become a computer geek. She has recently aquired a Mac and now thinks Windows isn't good enough for her. Which, to stick to the topic, made me happy.
  • So...monkey see, monkey do?
  • by Swizec (978239) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @05:44AM (#29437639) Homepage
    Are you saying that if I have sex with my girlfriend's friend she'll have more sex with me? Seems like a fairly interesting notion.

    What if I have sex with a bunch of my girlfriend's friends, will that make my girlfriend's whole social circle all want to have sex with me at the same time? 'Cause I could totally live with that.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by RuBLed (995686)
      FTFS -

      "The contagion effect is most noticeable when a tendency is passed from one person to another of the same sex â" friends of the opposite sex, including spouses, are not as influential."

      Not that I am suggesting anything other than we are on Slashdot.

      • by corsec67 (627446)

        The GP wants to get a group of people of the same sex (female in this case) that have a desire to have sex with him, which would spread through the same-sex connections, right?

        • So you're saying he's going to turn them lesbian? Makes sense to me, but I don't think it will encourage them to sleep with him.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @07:15AM (#29438033)

      Are you saying that if I have sex with my girlfriend's friend she'll have more sex with me? Seems like a fairly interesting notion. What if I have sex with a bunch of my girlfriend's friends, will that make my girlfriend's whole social circle all want to have sex with me at the same time? 'Cause I could totally live with that.

      Don't forget that behaviour isn't the only thing that's contagious... :-)

    • by Rogerborg (306625)
      Yes. In real life, that is exactly how it works. Unfortunately, the kind of guy that makes it work isn't likely to be asking about it on Slashdot. If you're determined to try it, buy a Camaro first.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Denial93 (773403)
      There certainly are some social groups where way more casual sex is going on than in others. Geekdom isn't one of them, in fact geeks are one of the most monogamous groups of people I know. Some of the music scenes tend to make much less of a fuss about casual sex, as do the hard political left, the art scene and the ecologically-bent.

      These are just stereotypes of course, I don't know whether there is hard data on this. Would be interesting, though. I am continually amazed at how much sex average-looking p
    • by Vancorps (746090)

      The funny part is that yes you can game it like this only you can't have sex with her friends but only friends of her friends.

      I see this all the time, it's why guys that will have sex with anything that's warm and wet end up oddly enough, having more sex! Course the chance for disease and unwanted pregnancy also arise.

      Of course you mention girlfriend and not just friend with benefits so all bets are off in your situation. I see this stuff all the time here in the southwest where we have women who's actual

    • What if I have sex with a bunch of my girlfriend's friends, will that make my girlfriend's whole social circle all want to have sex with me at the same time?

      Yes.

    • Yes. Pick-up artists call this social proof [wikipedia.org].

  • slashdot is an infection free zone
  • by Sobrique (543255) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @05:49AM (#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 cerberusss (660701) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @06:41AM (#29437863) Homepage Journal

      Peer pressure isn't a new phenomenon. Groups mutually conform, as part of their group identity.

      I don't think it's just about peer pressure and groups.

      I've read the book by Neil Strauss [wikipedia.org] in which he becomes a "pick-up artist". One of his techniques for impressing girls is to have you and a friend go into a bar and act like you're having fun. Laughing and joking is contageous to the girls, but they are not in your group, and neither is peer pressure involved there.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by smoker2 (750216)
        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 attr
    • If people were individuals it wouldn't matter what dumb behaviors their friends adopt. People need to learn to be responsible for their own health and their own happiness and their own happiness.

  • by should_be_linear (779431) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @05:49AM (#29437657)
    "Well-connected nodes in the graph (i.e., people with more friends) are more likely to be happier than less-connected nodes"

    So /. must be saddest place on earth.
  • by Thanshin (1188877) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @05:50AM (#29437661)

    I told you. Stupidity is not only deadly but also contagious through any information transmission capable medium.

    That's why the extra terrestrial visitors fly so fast and with their radio turned off.

    They're playing chicken.

    "Did you hear? GX-3-ThBlarg just did a low fly at merely three fongs per chronocycle! And he turned the wave receivers on for FIVE SECONDS!"
    "No way! He'll end up idiotized, like his big brother. He must already be getting fatter and sad."

  • disease (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    haha! I knew it was a disease!

  • Sounds pretty fluffy to me. I know a lot of people quitting smoking... because the price has doubled in the last year where I live, not because it's cool.
    • because the price has doubled in the last year where I live, not because it's cool.

      So it's not cool enough to justify the cost. People are more than willing to pay for cool/sleek/nifty.

    • Sounds pretty fluffy to me. I know a lot of people quitting smoking... but they claim that the reason is because the price has doubled in the last year where I live, not because it's cool.

      FTFY. I quit smoking (11 years at a pack a day)) within this last year as well, and while I believe that I quit for my own reasons, I'm open to the possibility that I was influenced by those around me. Particularly, now that I reflect on it, I see that 3 close friends had quit within 3-4 months prior to me quitting. Also, 4 other of my friends have quit since I quit. Sure, we all have our own reasons, but that's not to say we're not strongly influenced/motivated-to-action by each other.

  • by Vintermann (400722) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @06:12AM (#29437737) Homepage

    We well-informed teetotallers have known this for years about alcohol. Attitudes aren't made in a vacuum. If the drug/alcohol use of your kids, or even the use in society, bothers you, the first thing you should do is cut back (or better yet, cut out) yourself.

    It was the French demographer Sully Ledermann who first suggested that alcohol consumption appears to follow a log-normal distribution - he didn't provide much evidence for it, but it turned out later he was completely right. In principle, a single variable is enough to describe the variation in total alcohol consumption across cultures: The average amount consumed. As the number of moderate drinkers increase, the number of heavy drinkers increases with about the square.

    I'll quote (and translate) a piece of an article from the journal of the Norwegian physician's association:

    "The stable traits and connections that have been found in this are are not natural laws, they could all in principle have been different. The suprising thing, however, is that the connections are as stable as they are.

    These connections and regularities were at the outset pure statistical descriptions of reality, without any understanding of the social mechanisms that generated them. Through the 1980s there came some studies where one tried to explain how these regularities appear and are kept stable (9, 11, 13). The original hypotheses were one that drinking habits are explained by a series of factors that appear to combine multiplicatively, and another that alcohol users are strongly influenced by the drinking habits in their social networks.

    Both hypotheses have good empirical support. The first one can, by the so-called central limit theorem in statistical theory, explain that the distribution becomes approximately log-normal. The second hypothesis can, from theories of interaction and spread in social networks, explain why there is such a strong connection between average consumption and the prevalence of high consumers."

    Emphasis mine. Original article with references here: http://www.tidsskriftet.no/?seks_id=649944 [tidsskriftet.no]

    • Not just fat (Score:3, Interesting)

      by chrb (1083577)

      They also studied drinking: When it came to drinking, Christakis and Fowler found a different kind of gender effect. Framingham women were considerably more influential than Framingham men. A woman who began drinking heavily increased the heavy-drinking risk of those around her, whereas heavy-drinking men had less effect on other people. Why? In the age of frat-party binge drinking, you might imagine that hard-partying men are the most risky people to be around. But Fowler says he suspects women are more in

    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      I can quit anytime I want!
  • Essentially man is a social animal and has an inbuilt desire to fit in with the society that surrounds him/her. I'm not quite sure why an expensive and pointless scientific paper needed to be written about what is essentially a psychological and societal issue. Take DubLi, for example - it's growing because those who have used it are reporting positively to friends, collegues etc positively. It's not exactly rocket science, just my 2 cents worth.
    • So, you're saying that you don't see the value in writing scientific papers about psychological issues? Psychology is a science, you know.
    • But, but, but, this study had Facebook! And MySpace!

      It's new!

    • by stewbee (1019450) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @08:44AM (#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.
  • Good article. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AbRASiON (589899) * on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @06:17AM (#29437761) Journal

    I've always noted the point mentioned towards the end, discussing how a 'social hub' kind of person can leave their element (place of living, workplace) go somewhere and within a few short weeks become a social hub again, these people fascinate me (and probably most of us) often interesting, social, active and often fun.
    I'm by far not one of them sadly - infact I'm the loner in the article likely to die fat and speaking to no one however doesn't change that I mostly agree with what the article says, despite being difficult to proove it of course.

    • Re:Good article. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Sobrique (543255) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @06:34AM (#29437831) Homepage
      Thing is, it's not actually all that hard to do. It just requires a bit of overcoming of the initial 'I don't want to interact' antipathy. If you're anything like me, you've been introverted for a lot of your life, because ... well, people just suck. It's true, the do. Everyone is in some degree an arsehole. That doesn't mean you can't like them, nor does it mean you can't appreciate the positive parts of them. There's relatively few who are outright poison in terms of relationships.
      To become a social hub, all you really need is to be able to take an interest in everyone else. Start off by faking it, but once you've done that a bit, you've already got the level of background knowledge that you don't need to any more - it's basically the same as 'geeking' only this time the subject of your study is people and social dynamics. Accept the idiosyncracies of people without passing judgement, much like you would with a hardware platform. Take the time to figure out what they're good and bad at, and keep up to date with their revision history. From there, all it takes is a bit of spreading of invites when you choose to do something - e.g. if you feel like going to the cinema, circulate the notion - include time, venue and film, and invite people to turn up if they're interested. People will, and suddenly you're a social hub, and that's something that'll take fairly minimal effort to maintain.
      • Accept the idiosyncracies of people without passing judgement, much like you would with a hardware platform.

        But that's a primary benefit of a hardware platform, you can curse outs its stupidities and flaws right in front of it and it won't take offense.

    • by mikael_j (106439)

      Of course, a lot of "social hub" kind of people actually "lose" that when they move to a new city (or do something similar that removes them completely from their regular social network). One reason for this, from what I can tell, is that if you've spent the last n years just maintaining your social network then it's quite hard to all of a sudden have to go out and actually make lots of new friends. It's one thing to already be the center of attention when having lots of friends, others will start to see yo

  • by delibes (303485) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @06:18AM (#29437771)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quarantine_(Red_Dwarf) [wikipedia.org] for the unenlightened. Mr Flibble agrees with me, don't you Mr Flibble?
  • Catching, I mean.

  • by Memroid (898199) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @06:32AM (#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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by PeterBrett (780946)

      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."

      If you'd RTFA (and no, I'm not new here) you'd know that this effect is called homophily, and that one of the criticisms of the study is that the researchers efforts to account for it were insufficient.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by chrb (1083577)

      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?

      Your point is brought up in the article: One is âoehomophily,â the tendency of people to gravitate toward others who are like them. People who are gaining weight might well prefer to hang out with others who are also gaining weight, just as people who are happy might seek out others who are happy.Christakis and Fowler argue that they have stripped out the confounding effect of homophily from their statistics, although some other researchers have disagreed.

      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."

      Why is it obvious? At one time it was "obv

      • by darthflo (1095225) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @08:47AM (#29438613)

        Why is it obvious? At one time it was "obvious" that smokers were the cool socialites that everyone wanted to emulate.

        And how would one emulate a smoker? By smoking yourself, maybe? So you start smoking. You take smoke breaks whenever your role models take them and happily light a fag or two, taking good care of that nicotine addiction. Already, your smoke breaks will probably be somewhat social. There's going to be more smokers around, they're going to be smoking (just like you!) and every now and then they're going to be asking you for a light. Some talking might ensue, names be exchanged and friend requests be sent back and forth. Congratulations, the percentage of smokers among your friends is likely to increase.

        The great thing about smoking is it's addictingness. After all those breaks with your idols and perhaps a few new people, you'll probably run into a situation where you don't know any cool socialite in the vicinity. Doesn't matter, you'll still be taking a smoke break, it's not just about aspiring to the cool guys, it's also about getting that nicotine fix. Others will probably be in the same situation. Just like you, they'll be used to talking to others while smoking. Asking for a light or fag is a great conversation starter; and starting from your mutual love of processed tobacco, a conversation is easily started. Conversation leads to more smoke break leads to more conversations, leads to friend requests. And like that, two lonely smokers may find each other, get together, gift the world with a bunch of newborn (future) smokers. Shortly thereafter he dies of lung cancer, her next child is stillborn, pulling her into a deep depression during which she abuses her children. Finally, she takes her own life. Days later, her dead body and starved children are found by the landlord. While retrieving the bodies, the police accidentally rips open the wallpaper, freeing a large patch of old asbestos-containing isolation. The landlord proceeds to patch it all up with another layer of wallpaper, but having breathed asbestos nanoshrapnel for hours finishes his (due to smoking) already damaged lung off. He manages to call 911 and an ambulance is immediately dispatched. Unfortunately, on it's way to the landlord's apartment, the driver carelessy drops his cigarette. He looks down for a split second to localize the still glowing stub. While he's grabbing it, an unnamed Federal Agent Closely Resembling Jack Bauer sprints across the street in a vain attempt to stop the ticking countdown of a (novel, extremely deadly for the whole continental U.S., Hawaii and Alaska) bomb located a few blocks down. The ambulance slams into our facrjb, killing him on the spot (in a painful, slow way!). Only seconds thereafter, the countdown of the discussed explosive device hits 0:00:00. Smoking kills. But I seem to be digressing a tiny bit, so back to topic:

        Doing anything (e.g. being hapy, eating meat, smoking) makes you more likely to spend time with people of similar interest and less likely to spend time with diametrically opposed people (emos, vegans, non-smokers) because the former will approve of your actions, the latter condone them and people, being social animals, tend to favour approval over condemnation. Simple as that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Biogenesis (670772)
      I've never studied social networking, but there's a chance that the viral model is still useful mathematically even though it's causal relationship is flawed. For example in semiconductor physics it is often useful to model electron holes as positive charge carriers even though only electrons are actually moving. Basically the idea I'm trying to put forward is that if a model has limits (and every physical model does) it can still be useful if these limits are well understood.
    • The data wasn't just a snapshot of social networks. There was data gathered over time. It wasn't that a group would just be fat, but that the same group would be thin and then become fat roughly at the same time, once one member triggered it.
  • See BMJ 2008;337:a2533

  • It seems that tendencies to be happy, not to smoke, and not to become obese

    I don't understand this.

    If I were to become obese all I would have to think of to be happy is all eats and treats that got me there. The closest I ever got was 1 point under Obese on the WiiFit.

    Attempting to quit smoking has never made me a happier person. The closest I got was a couple days but I was preaty happy when I started back up :)

  • It is worth recognizing that the major breakthrough in this work in finding the long-running Framingham Heart Study data. This database had been collected for a different purpose. If this data has been anonymized; if they had destroyed the forrns naming a friend when a new form had been completed; or had destroyed the entire database when the original study aims had been met to preserve the privicy of the individuals, then this work would not have been possible.

    This is not to say that all databases are g

  • I sometimes find that being happy makes others resentful. I even smiled at a person once on the train and they came up to me and said "I didn't want that seat anyway" as if I was being smug about getting a seat!

    So perhaps the more happy people there are the more resentful some people get.

  • Leon Festinger developed the theory of Cognitive Dissonance half a century ago from naturalistic observations very much like the conclusions and implications put forward by TFA. He didn't require a model of information spread, as it was already based on observations of behaviors resulting from people talking to each other. Such a model is hardly useful when existing evidence already supports and goes beyond the model's predictions. In any case the models served to provide the means to correctly explain beha

  • are scientists looking for a cure?

    I'll happily stay infected, thanks! ;)

  • I think they have it backwards - more friends don't make you happier, happy people just tend to have more friends. My reasoning is twofold: people prefer being around happy people, and often when you are not happy it is more difficult to do things - thus less social interaction.

Those who do things in a noble spirit of self-sacrifice are to be avoided at all costs. -- N. Alexander.

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