Journal article

Structural diversity in social contagion.

Ugander J, Backstrom L, Marlow C, Kleinberg J ...see all

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, vol. 109 (2012) pp. 5962-5966

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The concept of contagion has steadily expanded from its original grounding
in epidemic disease to describe a vast array of processes that spread
across networks, notably social phenomena such as fads, political
opinions, the adoption of new technologies, and financial decisions.
Traditional models of social contagion have been based on physical
analogies with biological contagion, in which the probability that
an individual is affected by the contagion grows monotonically with
the size of his or her "contact neighborhood"--the number of affected
individuals with whom he or she is in contact. Whereas this contact
neighborhood hypothesis has formed the underpinning of essentially
all current models, it has been challenging to evaluate it due to
the difficulty in obtaining detailed data on individual network neighborhoods
during the course of a large-scale contagion process. Here we study
this question by analyzing the growth of Facebook, a rare example
of a social process with genuinely global adoption. We find that
the probability of contagion is tightly controlled by the number
of connected components in an individual's contact neighborhood,
rather than by the actual size of the neighborhood. Surprisingly,
once this "structural diversity" is controlled for, the size of the
contact neighborhood is in fact generally a negative predictor of
contagion. More broadly, our analysis shows how data at the size
and resolution of the Facebook network make possible the identification
of subtle structural signals that go undetected at smaller scales
yet hold pivotal predictive roles for the outcomes of social processes.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Data Collection
  • Electronic Mail
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination
  • Male
  • Models
  • Public Opinion
  • Social Networking
  • Theoretical
  • methods
  • trends/utilization

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  • Johan Ugander

  • Lars Backstrom

  • Cameron Marlow

  • Jon Kleinberg

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