RB 189: Peer Pressure

December 21st, 2011

Listen: or download | …also in Ogg

We’re so easily influenced by the habits and interests of our friends, you might think that social networks like Facebook would only magnify the power of peer pressure.

But recent research from Harvard sociologists Kevin Lewis, Marco Gonzalez, and Jason Kaufman shows that people are more likely to stick with their own interests than we might think.

From the abstract of the report Social selection and peer influence in an online social network:

Using data on the Facebook activity of a cohort of college students over 4 years, we find that students who share certain tastes in music and in movies, but not in books, are significantly likely to befriend one another. Meanwhile, we find little evidence for the diffusion of tastes among Facebook friends—except for tastes in classical/jazz music.

So while younger folks are likely to build friendships based on certain cultural tastes they’re not likely to warm to their friends tastes so easily. This is surprising, say the researchers, given previous data and assumptions about how tastes spread virally on the net.

David Weinberger chatted with Kevin Lewis to get more details on this study.

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