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« Distractions | Main | Jeff's New Office »

Social Networks' Sway May Be Underestimated

The same guys that brought us last year's study indicating that obesity is "contagious" are back with new research showing that smokers often quit in groups. The details are summarized in a Washington Post article today.

Taken together, these studies and others are fueling a growing recognition that many behaviors are swayed by social networks in ways that have not been fully understood. And it may be possible, the researchers say, to harness the power of these networks for many purposes, such as encouraging safe sex, getting more people to exercise or even fighting crime. 

I think many missionaries would find this research to be confirmation of what they've known for years -- that people often make major decisions together in groups. The specifics vary from culture to culture, but this is just more evidence to suggest that we are wired to interact socially with each other. Making major decisions, even tough ones, based on social influence, doesn't seem that surprising.

This also leads us to think about the potential influence of online social networks. My guess is that additional research will find that the online connections are just an additional method of communication and that real personal connections must have an offline component.

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