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Happiness May Be Catching

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the little-help-from-my-friends dept.

Social Networks 176

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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176 comments

Duh (3, Funny)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#29437611)

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

Re:Duh (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438073)

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

Re:Duh (1)

ta bu shi da yu (687699) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438187)

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

Correlation does not equal Causation (1, Insightful)

Chapter80 (926879) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438207)

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!

Re:Correlation does not equal Causation (5, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438411)

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:Correlation does not equal Causation (1, Troll)

Chapter80 (926879) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438523)

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?

Re:Correlation does not equal Causation (5, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438605)

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:Correlation does not equal Causation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29438861)

YHBT. YHL. HAND.

Re:Correlation does not equal Causation (2, Insightful)

kno3 (1327725) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438633)

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:Correlation does not equal Causation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29439115)

3333333333333333
Yes. There is irony here.
The irony is that you are an idiot. Cheers!

[point a: you were wrong, in a very self-satisfied, superior (and lazy) way.
  point b: you were told so in a well reasoned fashion.
  point c: you misunderstood the explanation, brought forth two (2) pieces of evidence that had already been addressed and shown lacking (correlation != causation as a blanket response and the claim of poor research), framed his post in a completely different way (pretending to be asking for clarification), used a middle-school grade insult, and then misused the term irony.]
I should probably have broken c down further, but, yeah.

Re:Correlation does not equal Causation (2, Informative)

lapsed (1610061) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438901)

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 to know whether the authors used the appropriate controls in the right ways, but it bears mentioning that even an ostensibly solid design can produce misleading results when trying to establish causation.

Re:Correlation does not equal Causation (2, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 4 years ago | (#29439113)

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 like you will criticize it. There is no way to defend as you won't take the time to properly analyze the methodology. Yet, despite not taking the time, you feel qualified to discount it.

"Hi, I don't believe in global warming cuz last winter was so cold (or maybe it was the year before). No, I don't care about global data for 50 years, cuz those guys are pointy haired, librul, academics".

Re:Correlation does not equal Causation (2, Insightful)

chrb (1083577) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438545)

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 statistical and theoretical inference to demonstrate causation based on the observed correlations.

What gets reported is the correlation, because reporters are even dumber than /. taggers, but the researchers generally have thought a little bit about elementary logical errors somewhere along the path of their experiment design.

The tag is particularly idiotic when you consider that every correlation is caused by something, so the OP here is absolutely correct: if you really believe that there is no relationship whatsoever between correlation and causation, such that you can reflexively dismiss every reported correlation with this little snippet of nonsense, then you're pretty much committed to nothing being caused by anything.

Tagging stories this way is completely vacuous. All it tells us is that you haven't read the study or considered whether the usual methods have been employed to properly infer causation from correlation. It would be as useful and relevant to tag all stories with "theskyisblue", which is true in one sense (although the sky happens to be overcast where I am right now) but is only true in a way that is a) known by everyone and b) adds nothing of value to the discussion."

Re:Correlation does not equal Causation (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438947)

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?

Re:Duh (2, Insightful)

coastwalker (307620) | more than 4 years ago | (#29439331)

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.

Everyone already knew this. (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 4 years ago | (#29437613)

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:Everyone already knew this. (1, Informative)

91degrees (207121) | more than 4 years ago | (#29437643)

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.

Re:Everyone already knew this. (1)

thannine (576719) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438077)

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.

Re:Everyone already knew this. (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438373)

You are being intentionally obtuse as my point was quite clearly that your mother knew one tends to mimic the behavior and attitude of those he or she associates with and therefore presents you with a ridiculous proposition to point out why you should go against that innate tendency to go along with them.

My point was quite clear. You are simply being deliberately dense.

Re:Everyone already knew this. (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438751)

My point was quite clear. You are simply being deliberately dense.

Yet two people misunderstood.

Perhaps you weren't as clear as you suspected.

Re:Everyone already knew this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29439137)

Or dense people are more likely to post on slashdot.

This is the point where you reply with 'correlationisnotcausation'.

Re:Everyone already knew this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29437759)

Man, you're getting me down. Stop it.

Re:Everyone already knew this. (5, Insightful)

LKM (227954) | more than 4 years ago | (#29437765)

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.

Re:Everyone already knew this. (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438357)

I find it amazing that you failed to comprehend the obvious point that eveyrone's mom (and therefore, society) made that statement was because they knew the propensity of people to mimic the behavior and attitude of those they associate with, therefore warning you against it by asking if you'd _even jump off a bridge_ if your friends did it.

Don't fault me for your obtuseness.

Re:Everyone already knew this. (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 4 years ago | (#29439037)

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.

Re:Everyone already knew this. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29438097)

Your mom already knew this after I drilled her.

Re:Everyone already knew this. (2, Interesting)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438661)

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 are interested, Google the study. There is a lot information out there, and the study added a lot to our body of knowledge.

Research like this may sound ridiculous... (5, Insightful)

Xerfas (1625945) | more than 4 years ago | (#29437631)

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..

Re:Research like this may sound ridiculous... (5, Funny)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Research like this may sound ridiculous... (1)

Xerfas (1625945) | more than 4 years ago | (#29437885)

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".

Re:Research like this may sound ridiculous... (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438007)

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!?

Re:Research like this may sound ridiculous... (1)

Xerfas (1625945) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438167)

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.

Re:Research like this may sound ridiculous... (0)

paiute (550198) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438381)

My best guess is that her Slashdot UID is in the low 5 digits.

Hmmm (1)

imakemusic (1164993) | more than 4 years ago | (#29437637)

So...monkey see, monkey do?

Re:Hmmm (0, Offtopic)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438125)

So...monkey see, monkey do?

Bloatware Inc, Virtual Monkey® see

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Bloatware Inc, Virtual Monkey® do

Re:Hmmm (2, Funny)

azior (1302509) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438143)

monkey C, monkey sudo!

Gaming it for more sex (4, Funny)

Swizec (978239) | more than 4 years ago | (#29437639)

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:Gaming it for more sex (2, Funny)

RuBLed (995686) | more than 4 years ago | (#29437683)

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.

Re:Gaming it for more sex (1)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 4 years ago | (#29437959)

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?

Re:Gaming it for more sex (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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... :-)

Re:Gaming it for more sex (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438337)

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:Gaming it for more sex (1)

muzicman (1148101) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438705)

Don't be ridiculous. This is slashdot. nobody here has a girlfriend!

Well, I'm OK here (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 4 years ago | (#29437645)

slashdot is an infection free zone

Attention Whoring (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29437651)

People who NEED to have more friends are more likely to lie about being happy to maintain their image.

Re:Attention Whoring (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29437709)

People who NEED to have more friends are more likely to lie about being happy to maintain their image.

This. I've always been irritated by fake laughter. When I meet new people, I can usually gauge their intelligence by telling some stupid jokes and seeing if they fake laugh or not. If they do, I tell them "That wasn't supposed to be funny" and walk away while they wonder what the hell just happened.

Yeah, I'm a dick, but at least I'm honest.

Not a new phenomenon (4, Insightful)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 4 years ago | (#29437655)

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.

Re:Not a new phenomenon (4, Interesting)

cerberusss (660701) | more than 4 years ago | (#29437863)

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:Not a new phenomenon (2, Insightful)

smoker2 (750216) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438303)

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 attract.

Graph theory (2, Funny)

should_be_linear (779431) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Graph theory (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 4 years ago | (#29437741)

So, who has the biggest friends list?

CmdrTaco has plenty of fans [slashdot.org] , but hasn't friended many, and I think it's best if it goes both ways.

Re:Graph theory (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29437813)

"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.

it is

Re:Graph theory (-1, Offtopic)

AlgorithMan (937244) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438095)

you just bought yourself a lawsuit from Disney, because of trademark infringement (on the phrase "happiest place on earth") - rewriting "happi" to "sad" is just a minor change, that won't get you off the hook...

Go into panic. Now. (3, Funny)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 4 years ago | (#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."

Re:Go into panic. Now. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29438217)

fongs per chronocycle you know nothing about extra terrestrial space ships!!! fongs per chronocycle is just units of energy divided by time. I bet you just make the rest of your post up!! Where are the moderators here?

disease (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29437669)

haha! I knew it was a disease!

Questionable (1)

Alarindris (1253418) | more than 4 years ago | (#29437681)

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.

Re:Questionable (1)

CraftyJack (1031736) | more than 4 years ago | (#29439049)

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.

Re:Questionable (1)

Arthur Grumbine (1086397) | more than 4 years ago | (#29439085)

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.

They're using FAT as the example... (4, Interesting)

Vintermann (400722) | more than 4 years ago | (#29437737)

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 (2, Interesting)

chrb (1083577) | more than 4 years ago | (#29437837)

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 influential precisely because they tend to drink less. When a woman starts drinking heavily, he says, it sends a strong signal to those around her that it's O.K. to start boozing too.

Re:Not just fat (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438315)

Ah... drunken cheerleaders. No study is complete without them.

Re:They're using FAT as the example... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29438261)

French demographer? The journal of the Norwegian physician's association?

my aren't we global

Re:They're using FAT as the example... (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#29439237)

I can quit anytime I want!

Interesting concept, but.... (2, Informative)

Niubi (1578987) | more than 4 years ago | (#29437749)

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.

Re:Interesting concept, but.... (1)

justinlee37 (993373) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438017)

So, you're saying that you don't see the value in writing scientific papers about psychological issues? Psychology is a science, you know.

Re:Interesting concept, but.... (1)

SunTzuWarmaster (930093) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438085)

But, but, but, this study had Facebook! And MySpace!

It's new!

Re:Interesting concept, but.... (5, Insightful)

stewbee (1019450) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Does it work for social nets too? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29437757)

"I have a very wide circle, I have 212 friends on myspace." (Sheldon Cooper)

Good article. (4, Interesting)

AbRASiON (589899) | more than 4 years ago | (#29437761)

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. (5, Informative)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 4 years ago | (#29437831)

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.

Re:Good article. (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438159)

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.

minus 5, TROll) (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29437799)

So are multi page articles (1)

Rashdot (845549) | more than 4 years ago | (#29437811)

Catching, I mean.

In related news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29437819)

"Nothing helps a bad mood like spreading it around"
- Calvin

Come on, we've known this for years.

Nodes connected BECAUSE of attributes (4, Insightful)

Memroid (898199) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:Nodes connected BECAUSE of attributes (2, Interesting)

PeterBrett (780946) | more than 4 years ago | (#29437887)

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:Nodes connected BECAUSE of attributes (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 4 years ago | (#29439305)

viral happiness?

this effect is called homophily

That is so gay! :)

Re:Nodes connected BECAUSE of attributes (2, Informative)

chrb (1083577) | more than 4 years ago | (#29437941)

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 "obvious" that smokers were the cool socialites that everyone wanted to emulate.

Re:Nodes connected BECAUSE of attributes (3, Funny)

darthflo (1095225) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:Nodes connected BECAUSE of attributes (2, Interesting)

Biogenesis (670772) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438927)

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.

Hmmn. (0)

buggy_throwback (259436) | more than 4 years ago | (#29437877)

Repeat after me. Correlation is not Causation

Re:Hmmn. (2, Insightful)

chrb (1083577) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438009)

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 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 statistical and theoretical inference to demonstrate causation based on the observed correlations.

What gets reported is the correlation, because reporters are even dumber than /. taggers, but the researchers generally have thought a little bit about elementary logical errors somewhere along the path of their experiment design.

The tag is particularly idiotic when you consider that every correlation is caused by something, so the OP here is absolutely correct: if you really believe that there is no relationship whatsoever between correlation and causation, such that you can reflexively dismiss every reported correlation with this little snippet of nonsense, then you're pretty much committed to nothing being caused by anything.

Tagging stories this way is completely vacuous. All it tells us is that you haven't read the study or considered whether the usual methods have been employed to properly infer causation from correlation. It would be as useful and relevant to tag all stories with "theskyisblue", which is true in one sense (although the sky happens to be overcast where I am right now) but is only true in a way that is a) known by everyone and b) adds nothing of value to the discussion."

Re:Hmmn. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29438149)

Yes, but are you really posting it because of this, after all, correlation is not causation and all that.

Re:Hmmn. (1)

LordAndrewSama (1216602) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438035)

Correlation is not Causation

So what is the cause. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29437901)

Congratulations! You just proved correlation. Now the real work begins: to prove causation! Aww FSCK it.

So witch is it happy people have more friends or people with friends tend to be happy? Depressed people tend to have fewer friends as they pull away from people they care about. This could lend credence to the contagious theory, or it could just be that people don't like downers.

Like I said, now the real work begins.

Also acne, height, headaches (1)

Bruce Stephens (6634) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438157)

See BMJ 2008;337:a2533

Load of cack! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29438175)

So basically lonely people are more likely to go down to the local store, buy too many cakes and eat them while watching drivel about happy people on the "toob", thus making themselves more miserable!

Well hold the front page! We have a new Pullitzer! FFS, they spent how much deducing that lonely people are more likely to miserable due to lonelines than people with lots of good friends? It's another win for academia!

Re:Load of cack! (1)

FreakyGreenLeaky (1536953) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438719)

load of kak. There, fixed that for you.

Smoking Obesity? (1)

BerryMadness (1591615) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438213)

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 :)

Good coming from public data (1)

Richard Kirk (535523) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438291)

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 good. We have seen recently how many of our personal details are available of we fly or book a hotel. There are people in the UK who want to make a national register of all children, in the belief that the entire database won't make it out of the building on a memory stick in the first week. But there are details I do not mind contributing to the common good. I would not post my medical details, but I would not mind my medical records being transferred when I move or change doctors, and I would certainly wish people to wring any good that could be wrung from such data. No man is an island, yerknow?

Maybe I am naive and idealistic. Maybe I should be guided by all the grumpy, mean, and suspicious people that seem to fill all London some days. But then again, no - they are all going to get fat and die, aren't they? Hah! Yess!! Roll on the day!!!

Finite amount of Happiness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29438401)

I disagree. My theory is theres a finite amout of happiness in the world:

Case examples:

- We feel good when we win at sport, the other team feels bad
- we feel get jealous when someone buys a nice new TV, and they are happy
- we laugh at other peoples misfortune
- Kids tease each other
- we're annoyed when we don't win employee of the year
- In the west we're rich, well off and not unhappy, in other countries they're poor, lacking basic necessities and generally less happy (okay that's a bit of a leap but you get the idea). Our SUVs, and by association happiness, are funded by other countries.

Few movies end with both the good and bad guy mutually winning and walking off with respective hot girls as that would feel wrong and offend this universal law that we all know but don't articulate as we're all too politically correct

Many things are examples of this process.

The lottery distributes a tiny sum of happiness from many players to one.

Religions often have a concept of hell. Its not enough being part of an institution that goes to heaven, everyone else has to go to hell. And as members of that institution we feel gleeful about the rewards we'll reap later on.

I think I've managed to cover most the hot topics: movies, geo politics, religion, capitalism etc.

Re:Finite amount of Happiness (2, Insightful)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 4 years ago | (#29439239)

You would seem to be correct. But I think that's less about happiness, than about how one defines success. Success is how much you exceed expectations by. Your expectations are set by looking at your 'peers'. Therefore to be 'successful' you need to be doing better than your peers are. Successful in turn, tends to promote feelings of contentment and happiness, because people feel that 'things could be worse'. More enlightened will realise what utter hogwash this is, but most will still go to work tomorrow, to work for a crust, to support their family/buy their house anyway.

So much bullshit from science lately... (1)

WheelDweller (108946) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438417)

Once upon a time, a concept had to be tested first with an experimenter, and when something new was found, he'd take that to a conference where other experimenters would retry the experiment again on their own. If they got the same result, it was declare 'true'.

But nowdays so much science is paid to support findings. There's money in a renowned scientist claiming CO2 is causing us all to die. It permits our governments to over-control each and every pleasantry of modern life, and gives politicians more and more power.

You can't say that, because it's really hot someplace, it's globalwarming, and later because it's really cold, that, too, is global warming. And you sure as hell can't say any of this, because the role of CO2 in the fossil record is one of COOLING when CO2 is widely present, not warming. Not opinion: fact. It's why AlGore showed the phenomenon as two distinct graphs, not one, in his "Inconvient Truth" lie.

Let's stop and do a reality check on this latest suggestion; the one that happiness is spread....in ANY way like a virus. Everyone has good and bad days. But how many BAD DAYS would the Earth have to have, to stop each and every one of us from being happy, naturally? The odds are staggering.

I'm an old fart. I remember when science was actually based on concpept and proof. Similarly, I remember when journalism was based on investigation and reporting, not merely cheerleading the team wanting to over-control human freedoms. But I tell you, we need to turn both around if we are to survive. And that, too, isn't opinion.

Negative connotations (1)

whereiswaldo (459052) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438425)

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.

Right, But Late (1)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438623)

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 behaviors. It's just that TFA is replication of results via another design, not any discovery.

News for nerds, stuff that matters (1)

FreakyGreenLeaky (1536953) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438713)

Not

You know you're a nerd when... (1)

WebmasterNeal (1163683) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438797)

Instead of calling your friends 'friends' you call them 'nodes'.

If happiness is contagious... (1)

Nyckname (240456) | more than 4 years ago | (#29438897)

then I'm immune.

If happiness is contagious... (1)

thewiz (24994) | more than 4 years ago | (#29439145)

are scientists looking for a cure?

I'll happily stay infected, thanks! ;)

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