Peer Effects


The New York Times is reporting again today about a fascinating study on facebook, which suggests that the interconnectedness of a couple's friends is a powerful predictor of whether their relationship will survive. It's apparently ok if your friends are not my friends when we are in a relationship. But if your friends are not friends of my friends -- if there is "high dispersion" in our social networks -- our relationship is 50% more likely to fail.  

What does this have to do with animal rights? Well, DxE has been heavily influenced by research on social networks in identifying the sources of change. It is part of the reason we focus so much on community building and social media. And it's why we focus on affecting the attributes of social networks -- systemic variables such as norms and culture, and interactive variables such as activism -- rather than private and individual beliefs or behavior. 

Studies like these show that, even in our most personal and important decisions, our social graphs play a huge role. In everything from smoking to obesity to even happiness, beliefs and behaviors are transmitted through our communities -- and, in particular, our close peers -- like a virus. And if we can understand and utilize this (as a source of momentum), rather than be constantly frustrated by it (as a cause of backsliding and burnout), then we can find the path to animal liberation.