Some very exciting research in the field of social networks psychology, could revolutionize the way green ventures approach citizens. The latest study, by Dr. Nicholas Christakis of Harvard Medical School, and James Fowler of the University of California, San Diego, reports on the social factors in quitting smoking. It was published this morning in the New England Journal of Medicine, and is already creating ripples throughout the media, starting with the New York Times. From the study’s abstract:
The study examined the extent to which groups of widely connected people quit smoking together.
The results showed that:
- Whole groups of people were quitting in concert
- Smokers were also progressively found in the periphery of the social network
- Smoking cessation by a spouse decreased a person’s chances of smoking by 67% Smoking cessation by a sibling decreased the chances by 25%
- Smoking cessation by a friend decreased the chances by 36%
- Among persons working in small firms, smoking cessation by a coworker decreased the chances by 34%
- Friends with more education influenced one another more than those with less education.
- These effects were not seen among neighbors in the immediate geographic area.
Conclusions are :
- Network phenomena appear to be relevant to smoking cessation.
- Groups of interconnected people stop smoking in concert, and smokers are increasingly marginalized socially.
These results are similar to results of a prior study from same authors on obesity. The network effect is at work not just in the halting of negative behaviors, such as smoking or unhealthy weight gain, but also in the spreading of positive life changes such as happiness. The latter will be documented in a forthcoming study by the authors on,’The Dynamic Spread of Happiness in a Large Social Network’.
The implications for climate strategies are obvious. Behavioral change conservation efforts, will work best if focused on groups, not just individuals. This is a confirmation of the research done by the ‘Nudge‘ team at University of Chicago. The smoking study also shows which clusters to focus on. Friends, as in Facebook or Twitter, coworkers as in Carbon Rally, spouses as in family systems.
Thanks, Meryn, for all the links.