Talk: How social networks can make the world better

“Using Social Networks for Good” is the topic of the next In the Company of Scholars talk at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

The featured speaker will be Dr. Nicholas A. Christakis, the Sol Goldman Family Professor of Social and Natural Science. The talk will take place at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 11 in Rm. 119 of the Hall of Graduate Studies, 320 York St. A reception will follow. The Yale community is invited. 

The talk will also be livestreamed on Yale YouTube.

Christakis is a sociologist and physician who conducts research in the areas of social networks and biosocial science. He directs the Human Nature Lab.

“Human beings choose their friends, neighbors, and co-workers, and we inherit our relatives; and each of the people to whom we are connected also does the same, such that, in the end, we humans assemble ourselves into vast, face-to-face social networks.  These networks are the human equivalent of ant colonies,” says Christakis. “Why do we do this?  How does our embeddedness in social networks affect our lives — our health, emotions, thoughts, and actions? Why do we copy what our friends, and even our friends’ friends, do? And how might an understanding of human social network structure and function be used to intervene in the world to make it better?”

Dr. Nicholas Christakis

His talk, says Christakis, will look at the “deep mathematical, biological, psychological, and sociological rules undergirding social networks. We will, in particular, review recent research describing two classes of interventions involving both offline and online networks: those that rewire the connections between people, and those that manipulate contagious processes.  I will illustrate what can be done using a variety of experiments in settings as diverse as fostering cooperation or smoking cessation in networked groups online, to fostering health behavior change in villages in the developing world. By taking account of people’s structural embeddedness in social networks, and by understanding social influence, it is possible to intervene in social systems to enhance population-level properties as diverse as health, wealth, cooperation, creativity, and immunity.”

The In the Company of Scholars lecture series is sponsored by Graduate School Dean Lynn Cooley.

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