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To Convince People, Come at Them From Different Angles

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A Facebook "Neighborhood"

A Facebook "Neighborhood." This member has two large, closely interconnected clumps of friends, and a few smaller clumps. Each clump probably represents a different social context--people from work, people from a hobby, and so on. Cornell research shows that many requests from one context are less effective in influencing decisions than requests coming from many directions.

Credit: Jon Kleinberg et al.

Cornell research on Facebook users' behavior demonstrates that people base decisions on the variety of social contexts rather than on the number of requests received.

Social scientists previously envisioned the spread of ideas as similar to the spread of disease, but Cornell professor Jon Kleinberg says social contagion seems to be distinct from that model. "Each of us is sitting at a crossroads between the social circles we inhabit," he observes. "When a message comes at you from several directions, it may be more effective."

The researchers worked with a database of 54 million email invitations from Facebook users inviting others to join the social network and analyzed the friendship links among inviters. The probability of a person joining increased with the number of different, unconnected social contexts represented.

An analysis of the Facebook neighborhoods of 10 million new members seven days after joining identified clumps of friends linked to one another but not as much to people in other clumps. A follow-up check three months later found that people with more diverse clumps among their friends were more likely to be engaged.

The researchers imply that mathematical models of how ideas proliferate across networks may require tweaking to account for the inclusion of neighborhood diversity.

From Cornell Chronicle 
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Abstracts Copyright © 2012 Information Inc. External Link, Bethesda, Maryland, USA 


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