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Concept: Social capital


Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine who received the Prize between 1969 and 2011 are compared to a matched group of scientists to examine productivity, impact, coauthorship and international collaboration patterns embedded within research networks. After matching for research domain, h-index, and year of first of publication, we compare bibliometric statistics and network measures. We find that the Laureates produce fewer papers but with higher average citations. The Laureates also produce more sole-authored papers both before and after winning the Prize. The Laureates have a lower number of coauthors across their entire careers than the matched group, but are equally collaborative on average. Further, we find no differences in international collaboration patterns. The Laureates coauthor network reveals significant differences from the non-Laureate network. Laureates are more likely to build bridges across a network when measuring by average degree, density, modularity, and communities. Both the Laureate and non-Laureate networks have “small world” properties, but the Laureates appear to exploit “structural holes” by reaching across the network in a brokerage style that may add social capital to the network. The dynamic may be making the network itself highly attractive and selective. These findings suggest new insights into the role “star scientists” in social networks and the production of scientific discoveries.

Concepts: Sociology, Networks, Social capital, Social network, Network theory, Nobel Prize, Laureate, Paul Newman


In human societies, cultural norms arise when behaviours are transmitted through social networks via high-fidelity social learning. However, a paucity of experimental studies has meant that there is no comparable understanding of the process by which socially transmitted behaviours might spread and persist in animal populations. Here we show experimental evidence of the establishment of foraging traditions in a wild bird population. We introduced alternative novel foraging techniques into replicated wild sub-populations of great tits (Parus major) and used automated tracking to map the diffusion, establishment and long-term persistence of the seeded innovations. Furthermore, we used social network analysis to examine the social factors that influenced diffusion dynamics. From only two trained birds in each sub-population, the information spread rapidly through social network ties, to reach an average of 75% of individuals, with a total of 414 knowledgeable individuals performing 57,909 solutions over all replicates. The sub-populations were heavily biased towards using the technique that was originally introduced, resulting in established local traditions that were stable over two generations, despite a high population turnover. Finally, we demonstrate a strong effect of social conformity, with individuals disproportionately adopting the most frequent local variant when first acquiring an innovation, and continuing to favour social information over personal information. Cultural conformity is thought to be a key factor in the evolution of complex culture in humans. In providing the first experimental demonstration of conformity in a wild non-primate, and of cultural norms in foraging techniques in any wild animal, our results suggest a much broader taxonomic occurrence of such an apparently complex cultural behaviour.

Concepts: Sociology, Social psychology, Social capital, Social network, Knowledge management, Network theory, Network science, Sociolinguistics


Homophily, the tendency of individuals to associate with others who share similar traits, has been identified as a major driving force in the formation and evolution of social ties. In many cases, it is not clear if homophily is the result of a socialization process, where individuals change their traits according to the dominance of that trait in their local social networks, or if it results from a selection process, in which individuals reshape their social networks so that their traits match those in the new environment. Here we demonstrate the detailed temporal formation of strong homophily in academic achievements of high school and university students. We analyze a unique dataset that contains information about the detailed time evolution of a friendship network of 6,000 students across 42 months. Combining the evolving social network data with the time series of the academic performance (GPA) of individual students, we show that academic homophily is a result of selection: students prefer to gradually reorganize their social networks according to their performance levels, rather than adapting their performance to the level of their local group. We find no signs for a pull effect, where a social environment of good performers motivates bad students to improve their performance. We are able to understand the underlying dynamics of grades and networks with a simple model. The lack of a social pull effect in classical educational settings could have important implications for the understanding of the observed persistence of segregation, inequality and social immobility in societies.

Concepts: Sociology, Networks, Social capital, Social network, Network theory, Network science, Mathematical sociology, Homophily


BackgroundConnectedness is a central dimension of personal recovery from severe mental illness (SMI). Research reports that people with SMI have lower social capital and poorer-quality social networks compared to the general population.AimsTo identify personal well-being network (PWN) types and explore additional insights from mapping connections to places and activities alongside social ties.MethodWe carried out 150 interviews with individuals with SMI and mapped social ties, places and activities and their impact on well-being. PWN types were developed using social network analysis and hierarchical k-means clustering of this data.ResultsThree PWN types were identified: formal and sparse; family and stable; and diverse and active. Well-being and social capital varied within and among types. Place and activity data indicated important contextual differences within social connections that were not found by mapping social networks alone.ConclusionsPlace locations and meaningful activities are important aspects of people’s social worlds. Mapped alongside social networks, PWNs have important implications for person-centred recovery approaches through providing a broader understanding of individual’s lives and resources.

Concepts: Sociology, Networks, Social capital, Social network, Network theory, Mathematical sociology, Social networks, Cultural economics


After nearly a century-long trend toward single-family living arrangements, people in wealthy nations are increasingly living in multi-generational households. Multi-generational living arrangements can, in theory, increase psychological, social, and financial capital-factors associated with improvements in health and longevity.

Concepts: Family, Demography, Sociology, Economics, Investment, Capital, Social capital


Civil wars divide nations along social, economic, and political cleavages, often pitting one neighbor against another. To restore social cohesion, many countries undertake truth and reconciliation efforts. We examined the consequences of one such effort in Sierra Leone, designed and implemented by a Sierra Leonean nongovernmental organization called Fambul Tok. As a part of this effort, community-level forums are set up in which victims detail war atrocities, and perpetrators confess to war crimes. We used random assignment to study its impact across 200 villages, drawing on data from 2383 individuals. We found that reconciliation had both positive and negative consequences. It led to greater forgiveness of perpetrators and strengthened social capital: Social networks were larger, and people contributed more to public goods in treated villages. However, these benefits came at a substantial cost: The reconciliation treatment also worsened psychological health, increasing depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder in these same villages. For a subset of villages, we measured outcomes both 9 months and 31 months after the intervention. These results show that the effects, both positive and negative, persisted into the longer time horizon. Our findings suggest that policy-makers need to restructure reconciliation processes in ways that reduce their negative psychological costs while retaining their positive societal benefits.

Concepts: Sociology, Community, Society, Civil society, Social capital, Civil war, War, Sierra Leone


Providing cognitive challenges to zoo-housed animals may provide enriching effects and subsequently enhance their welfare. Primates may benefit most from such challenges as they often face complex problems in their natural environment and can be observed to seek problem solving opportunities in captivity. However, the extent to which welfare benefits can be achieved through programmes developed primarily for cognitive research is unknown. We tested the impact of voluntary participation cognitive testing on the welfare of a socially housed group of crested macaques (Macaca nigra) at the Macaque Study Centre (Marwell Zoo). First, we compared the rate of self-directed and social behaviours on testing and non-testing days, and between conditions within testing days. Minimal differences in behaviour were found when comparing testing and non-testing days, suggesting that there was no negative impact on welfare as a result of cognitive testing. Lipsmacking behaviours were found to increase and aggressive interaction was found to decrease in the group as a result of testing. Second, social network analysis was used to assess the effect of testing on associations and interactions between individuals. The social networks showed that testing subjects increased their association with others during testing days. One interpretation of this finding could be that providing socially housed primates with an opportunity for individuals to separate from the group for short periods could help mimic natural patterns of sub-group formation and reunion in captivity. The findings suggest, therefore, that the welfare of captive primates can be improved through the use of cognitive testing in zoo environments.

Concepts: Sociology, Macaque, Problem solving, Social psychology, Social capital, Social network, Network theory


Many university students engage in risky alcohol consumption behaviour during their stay at university. So far, however, most studies have relied on cross-sectional surveys and paid little attention to the role of social ties. University students, however, are socially connected, so it is likely that their alcohol consumption behaviour is also connected. We hypothesized that university students' social positions within their networks are related to their drinking behaviour. We carried out a social network analysis within a whole network approach with undergraduates in two faculties (n = 487), those of Engineering and Psychology, in a Belgian university. All students filled out a questionnaire recording their drinking behaviour and their social ties (friendship, working with, partying with and room-mate). For each individual, indicators of centrality, social capital, and cross-gender relationships were computed. We found that being socially close to binge drinkers was associated with a higher frequency of binge drinking. The risk of binge drinking increased with centrality but decreased with social capital. Having cross-gender relationships decreased the risk of binge drinking. We found indications that the effect of centrality and gender on binge drinking depends on the composition of the network. We conclude that social position has important effects on risky drinking behaviour and that the composition of the network may affect these factors. Those developing health promotion strategies could investigate the benefits of targeting central individuals in order to prevent binge drinking among university students.

Concepts: Alcoholism, Sociology, Alcohol abuse, Networks, Beer, Drinking culture, Social capital, Social network


Adolescence is a key period of social development at the end of which individuals are expected to take on adult social roles. The school class, as the most salient peer group, becomes the prime environment that impacts social development during adolescence. Using social network analyses, we investigated how individual and group level features are related to prosocial behavior and social capital (generalized trust). We mapped the social networks within 22 classrooms of adolescents aged between 12 and 18 years (N = 611), and collected data on social behaviors towards peers. Our results indicate that individuals with high centrality show both higher levels of prosocial behavior and relational aggression. Importantly, greater social cohesion in the classroom was associated with (1) reduced levels of antisocial behavior towards peers and (2) increased generalized trust. These results provide novel insights in the relationship between social structure and social behavior, and stress the importance of the school environment in the development of not only intellectual but also social capital.

Concepts: Psychology, Sociology, Adolescence, Social psychology, Peer group, Social capital, Social network, Structural cohesion


Online social networks have increasing influence on our society, they may play decisive roles in politics and can be crucial for the fate of companies. Such services compete with each other and some may even break down rapidly. Using social network datasets we show the main factors leading to such a dramatic collapse. At early stage mostly the loosely bound users disappear, later collective effects play the main role leading to cascading failures. We present a theory based on a generalised threshold model to explain the findings and show how the collapse time can be estimated in advance using the dynamics of the churning users. Our results shed light to possible mechanisms of instabilities in other competing social processes.

Concepts: Time, Sociology, Networks, Social capital, Social network, Network theory, Network science, Social network aggregation