3 Degrees of Influence

Your behaviour not only influences your direct friend it influences your friends’ friends’ and your friends’, friends’, friends … and their behaviour influences you!

Three Degrees of Influence is a theory in social networks, proposed by Nicholas A. Christakis, Professor of Social and Natural Science at Yale University, and James H. Fowler, Professor of Medical Genetics and Professor of Political Science at the University of California.

Christakis and Fowler examined phenomena from various domains, such as obesity, happiness, cooperation, voting, and various public health beliefs and behaviors. Investigations by other groups have subsequently explored many other phenomena in this way (including crime, social learning, etc.). These studies found that;

1. We shape our networks and our network shapes us – We become like the people we spend time with. Transivity (i.e. the amount of connections we have) affects the quality of our lives (it influences our expectations, the sort of people we marry, where we live, the sort of jobs we get, our emotions, our health – even to the likelihood of committing suicide).

2. Our friends affect us – We often copy our friends. Friends give us permission (and safety) to do things. If a friend has done something/bought something/been somewhere, then we are much more likely to also do it/buy it/go there.

3. Our friends’ friends’ friends affect us – We are influenced by what our friends do – but also by our friends’ friends – and surprisingly by our friends’ friends’ friends. Likewise what we do echoes out through three levels of friends before it loses its energy and impact.

4. Networks have a life of their own – No one controls or owns the network. It is complex, dynamic and constantly evolving. Consider how a flock of geese has no leader but self organises. It has no central control point but rather a ‘shared intelligence’.

Christakis and Fowler’s research shows that the influence of our actions and words tends to reach our friends, our friend’s friends, and our friend’s friend’s friends, but not much further (the Three Degrees of Influence rule). This limitation can be due to the intrinsic decay of information as social distance increases, due to network instability as ties are constantly reconfigured, and due to our cognitive constraints as they have been shaped by our evolution.

Physical Activity – As someone who looks after your physical, mental and social wellbeing you influence your friends, family, colleagues and local community. Personal Trainers and Coaches have a big impact on local communities, influencing not only those taking part but also their friends’ friends’ friends. We regularly post on how improving physical, mental and social wellbeing reduces crime, reduces visits to the GP and A&E, improves education levels and much more. This has been demonstrated by many studies, including (https://www.sportengland.org/know-your-audience/data/active-lives)

Taking part in physical activity, or as a PT/coach … you are a local community Super Hero🦸‍♀️🦸‍♂️

Extracts from; https://www.researchgate.net/publication/258568206_Nickolas_A_Christakis_and_James_H_Fowler_2009_Connected_The_Surprising_Power_of_our_Social_Networks_and_How_they_Shape_our_Lives_Little_Brown_New_York_NY_353_pages