Social Networks : Influentials, Networks, and Public Opinion Formation
This is a link to a new paper from Duncan J. Watts and Peter Sheridan Dodds, for the Journal of Consumer Research (in press, Dec. 2007)
The idea is rated the number one breakthrough idea of 2007 by Harvard Business Online.
Summary: "A central idea in marketing and diffusion research is that influentials — a minority of individuals who influence an exceptional number of their peers — are important to the formation of public opinion. Here we examine this idea, which we call the “influentials hypothesis,” using a series of computer simulations of interpersonal influence processes. Under most conditions that we consider, we find that large cascades of influence are driven not by influentials, but by a critical mass of easily influenced individuals. Although our results do not exclude the possibility that influentials can be important, they suggest that the influentials hypothesis requires more careful specification and testing than it has received."
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Duncan Watts, Department of Sociology, Columbia University, New York, NY. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Peter Dodds, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Vermont, Burlington VT. e-mail: email@example.com.