Popularity Genes

February 25th, 2009 | Sources: Medical News Today


Christakis and Fowler are at it again!

Two months ago they caused a stir by publishing research in BMJ which seemed to show that happiness is contagious, a conclusion that some chalked up to an inexcusably naïve failure to recognize the effects of epiphenomena in social networks.

Now these crowd pleasers have put a piece in PNAS which concludes that a person’s popularity is genetically determined. 

Or as Christakis, a medical sociologist at Harvard told Medical News Today, “We were able to show that our particular location in vast social networks has a genetic basis.”

“In fact, the beautiful and complicated pattern of human connection depends on our genes to a significant measure,” he waxed.

Does this guy think he’s Ram Dass or what?

To reach this data-mining epiphany, Christakis and Fowler characterized the social networks of 1,110 identical and non-identical teen-aged twins from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.

They measured popularity by the number of times an individual was named as a friend and the likelihood those friends knew each other.

Does this work for everybody?

Whatever, the scientists observed a higher concordance among the networks of identical twins than their non-identical counterparts.

They also concluded that whether a person was central to, or at the periphery of her social network was genetically determined, which inspired them to raise Charles Darwin from the dead, all in the same article.

Maybe it’s good to be on the periphery of a social group, they mused, like when there’s Ebola virus floating around. Then again, those hub-of-the-network types have access to more information like which Starbucks still has Christmas Blend in stock.
Please people.


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