Changing another’s behavior is one of the most difficult challenges faced by health providers. For years, it was assumed that peer influence within networks containing more distant ties was more effective at producing large-scale change quickly. But new research from MIT, as chronicled in the recent article MIT Researcher Finds That Social Networks Influence Health Behaviors, is indicating that denser, closer connections may actually be more influential. MIT Assistant Professor Damon Centola developed an online health community of 1,528 people with anonymous profiles and a series of health interests. Participants were matched with other “health buddies” who shared similar health interests and placed into networks with two distinct densities of connections. Centola tested how network density affected willingness to register for and participate in health forums, finding that social reinforcement from multiple health buddies made participants more willing to adopt desirable health behavior.
Image Credit – Birdfellow