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Social Network Interventions (with Nicholas A. Christakis)

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  • Sockman Lounge, The Interchurch Center Lobby 475 Riverside Drive New York, NY, 10027 United States (map)
 
 

When: Wednesday, October 9th, 12:00-1:30p.m.
Where: Sockman Lounge, Interchurch Center Lobby, 475 Riverside Drive

Social Network Interventions

Human beings choose their friends, and often their neighbors and co-workers, and they inherit their 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 face-to-face social networks. Why do we do this? How has natural selection shaped us in this regard? What role do our genes play in the topology of our social ties? And how might a deep understanding of human social network structure and function be used to intervene in the world to make it better? Here, after reviewing some of our work on how our evolution has shaped our social networks, I will review our research describing three classes of interventions involving both offline and online networks that can help make the world better: (1) interventions that rewire the connections between people; (2) interventions that manipulate social contagion, facilitating the flow of desirable properties within groups; and (3) interventions that manipulate the position of people within network structures. I will illustrate what can be done using a variety of experiments in settings as diverse as fostering cooperation in networked groups online, to fostering health behavior change in developing world villages, to facilitating the diffusion of innovation or coordination in groups. I will also focus on recent experiments with “hybrid systems” comprised of both humans and “dumb bots,” involving simple artificial intelligence (AI) agents interacting in small groups. 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 desirable population-level properties as diverse as health, wealth, cooperation, coordination, and learning.

Nicholas A. Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH, is the Sterling Professor of Social and Natural Science at Yale University. His work is in the fields of network science, biosocial science, and behavior genetics. He directs the Human Nature Lab and is the Co-Director of the Yale Institute for Network Science. He was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2006; the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2010; and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2017.

This event is free and open to the public. Lunch and light refreshments will be provided. All are welcome!


This event is part of Networks and Time Workshop Series at INCITE (Interdisciplinary Center for Innovative Theory and Empirics), and is co-sponsored by The American Assembly.