The Ripple Effect: You are more influential than you think

Human Dynamics

The well-known "small-world" phenomenon indicates that an individual can be connected with any other in the world through a limited number of personal acquaintances. Furthermore, Nicholas and Fowler show that not only are we connected to each other, but we could also shape the behavior of our friends' friends. In this project, we are interested in understanding how social influence propagates and triggers behavioral change in social networks. Specifically, we analyze a large-scale, one-month international event held in the European country of Andorra using country-wide mobile phone data, and investigate the change in the likelihood of attending the event for people that have been influenced by and are of different social distances from the attendees. 

Our results suggest that social influence exhibits the ripple effect, decaying across social distances from the source but persisting up to six degrees of separation. We further show that influence decays as communication delay increases and intensity decreases. Such ripple effect in social communication can lead to important policy implications in applications where it is critical to trigger behavior change in the population.

Project at a glance