Yahoo, Facebook Unite to Test 'Six Degrees' Theory

By San Jose Mercury News | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, August 28, 2011 | Go to article overview

Yahoo, Facebook Unite to Test 'Six Degrees' Theory


San Jose Mercury News, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Yahoo Inc. and Facebook Inc. are joining forces to test an iconic 1960s-era social experiment that showed there are just six degrees of separation between most people on the planet.

The world's population has almost doubled since social psychologist Stanley Milgram's famous but flawed "Small World" experiment gave people a new way to visualize their interconnectedness with the rest of humanity. Something else has also changed -- the advent of online social networks, particularly Facebook's 750 million members, and that's what researchers plan to use.

Starting last week, social scientists from Facebook and Yahoo hooked into that vast digital network to discover how many average online connections it takes for people to relay a message to a "target" -- someone they don't know, in countries around the world.

The Yahoo-Facebook experiment could settle ongoing questions about whether the degrees of separation between people are as few as Milgram and other investigators concluded. Milgram's conclusion was based on a small number of letters making it to their target, leaving room for doubt about his findings among many social scientists. The latest version of the Small World experiment running on Facebook could help erase those questions.

"You really couldn't have done this until very recently," said Duncan Watts, Yahoo's principal research scientist who is leading the experiment. "It's a milestone, in terms of it's the kind of research question you can answer now that you could have imagined 50 years ago, but that you couldn't have answered 50 years ago -- or even 15 years ago."

On average, each of Facebook's members has 130 friends on the social network, and Facebook visualizes that web of connections as a person's "social graph." The social graph doesn't just grow wider as the social network -- Facebook has tripled in size in the past two years -- adds members. It gets more dense, as the gaps between people are filled in by new members, said Cameron Marlow, Facebook's chief data scientist.

While the digital record of that graph shows the far-flung web of connections between people, individuals might not always be aware of how large their network really is, because they don't always know the friends of their friends. Therefore, it's important to test how effective people really are at transmitting a message from friend to friend, Watts said, to gauge how closely connected people really are.

The current "Small World" experiment -- anyone with a Facebook account can participate by going to smallworld.sandbox.yahoo.com -- could help determine that. The study is intended as academic social research and will be published in peer-reviewed scientific journal, said Watts, a widely recognized authority on social networks.

But the results could have applications to Facebook's business, Marlow said, because the degrees of separation between individuals, and between people and commercial brands that run ads on Facebook, are important. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Yahoo, Facebook Unite to Test 'Six Degrees' Theory
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.