Press

In Sickness And In Health

Dr. Nicholas Christakis runs the Human Nature Lab at Yale and co-authored some more recent studies that examined the widowhood effect in more detail. He says the widowhood effect, “fundamentally illustrates a very deep set of ideas regarding human social interaction, because look what it says: It says that when one person dies, it could contribute to or cause the death of another person.”

Full Article: WGBH

Bad bots do good: Random artificial intelligence helps people coordinate

Unpredictable artificial intelligence (AI) doesn’t sound like a good thing. But a new study shows that computers that behave randomly can push us to better coordinate our actions with others and accomplish tasks more quickly. The approach could ease traffic flow, improve corporate strategy, and possibly even tighten marriages.

Full Article: Science

Dumb robots that make mistakes actually help humans solve problems

Our automated future has already arrived — at least, to some extent. Algorithms and smart devices help people choose what to buy, what to read, what to watch, and which roads to take. But social scientists Nicholas Christakis and Hirokazu Shirado at Yale University wanted to understand what this means on a bigger scale: how do machines change how humans interact with each other? And can robotic colleagues help humans work together more effectively?

Full Article: The Verge

Pushy AI Bots Nudge Humans to Change Behavior

When people work together on a project, they often come to think they’ve figured out the problems in their own respective spheres. If trouble persists, it’s somebody else—engineering, say, or the marketing department—who is screwing up. That “local focus” means finding the best way forward for the overall project is often a struggle. But what if adding artificial intelligence to the conversation, in the form of a computer program called a bot, could actually make people in groups more productive?

Full Article: Scientific American

Does the secret to social networking lie in the remote jungle?

The highlands of Honduras’s Copán region, on the country’s Western border with Guatemala, remain nearly as socially isolated today as when the Mayans built one of their greatest civilizations there thousands of years ago. Far from Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, however, researchers here are studying social networks, trying to map the true extent to which one’s connectivity can influence behavior and, more importantly, be leveraged to achieve positive outcomes.

Full Article: Boston Globe

The Dangers of Visible Inequality

A new study shows that the wealthy are less benevolent when they know just how poor their neighbors are.

Full Article: The Atlantic

Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman S6 • E1 Are We All Bigots?

Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman filmed a segment in the Human Nature Lab for their episode, ‘Are we all bigots?’ Evolution has hard-wired us toward subconscious bias. This episode explores how one can overcome bigotry through exposure, self-awareness, flexible social networks and violent video games. The HNL is featured briefly in the clip below and throughout the full episode.

Gene Linked to Obesity Hasn’t Always Been a Problem, Study Finds

Among scientists who study how our DNA affects our weight, a gene called FTO stands out.

Full Article: The New York Times

Five Minutes with Nicholas A. Christakis: “Discovery is greatly facilitated by methodological innovation.”

Managing Editor Sierra Williams spoke to Professor Nicholas A. Christakis ahead of an LSE event, Do We Need to Shake Up the Social Sciences? Here he discusses his thoughts on the frontiers in interdisciplinary research, the need for social science departmental re-shuffles, and the radical changes shaping social science’s relevance today.

Full Article: The London School of Economics and Political Science

Do the social sciences need a shake-up?

What principally matters is whether social scientists are doing their job of helping humans to understand the world and improve life.

Full Article: Times Higher Education

Nature, nurture, or network?

Your friends and family influence your drinking, sleep, weight, and happiness—more than you think.

Full Article: Yale Alumni Magazine

We're genetically linked to our friends

A new study published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science suggests friends may be more than just people you lean on when you're not strong; they might actually help you carry on -- genetically speaking. We are as genetically similar to our friends as we are our with our fourth cousins.

Full Article: CNN

Surprising Genetic Resemblance Betweeen Friends [Entre amis, une ressemblance génétique étonnante]

Les gens ont tendance à choisir des amis qui leur sont génétiquement proches, à tel point que les personnes d'un même cercle social peuvent être aussi proches que des cousins au quatrième degré.

Full Article: Le Monde

Research: Human friendships based on genetic similarities beyond the superficial

Friends often look alike. The tendency of people to forge friendships with people of a similar appearance has been noted since the time of Plato. But now there is research suggesting that, to a striking degree, we tend to pick friends who are genetically similar to us in ways that go beyond superficial features.

Full Article: The Washington Post

Do We Choose Our Friends Because They Share Our Genes?

People often talk about how their friends feel like family. Well, there's some new research out that suggests there's more to that than just a feeling. People appear to be more like their friends genetically than they are to strangers, the research found.

Full Article: NPR

Emotions Vented Online Are Contagious, Study Finds

In the digital swirl of Facebook status updates, emotions expressed online can be contagious, according to a new study encompassing more than 100 million people in the U.S. and a billion messages they posted. Moreover, upbeat messages were far more likely than negative ones to affect the mood of others online, researchers at the University of California, San Diego, Yale University and Facebook Inc. report.

Full Article: The Wall Street Journal

Dog Poop, Facebook and Optimism with Nicholas Christakis ’84

Sol Goldman Family professor of social and natural science Nicholas Christakis ’84  joined Yale’s teaching faculty in 2013 and now heads the ambitiously and eye-catchingly titled Human Nature Lab, where he and his students study phenomena at the intersection of the social and the natural sciences. 

Full Article: Yale Daily News

Our Happiness Depends on our Friends [Unser Glück hängt von den Freunden]

Der Soziologe Nicholas Christakis über ansteckende Vorlieben und die unterschätzte Bedeutung des Miteinanders.

Full Article: Zeit Online

Tanzania’s Hadza Group Sheds Light on Ancient Social Networks

The Hadza, who live primitively in Tanzania, have social networks similar to modern ones. People prefer the company of those with attitudes similar to their own, a study finds.

Full Article: Los Angeles Times

The Evolution of Co-operation: Make or Break? Social Networking Tames Cheats

HOW people collaborate, in the face of numerous temptations to cheat, is an important field of psychological and economic research. A lot of this research focuses on the “tit-for-tat” theory of co-operation: that humans are disposed, when dealing with another person, to behave in a generous manner until that other person shows himself not to be generous. At this point co-operation is withdrawn. Fool me once, in other words, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Full Article: The Economist

Fifteen Questions with Nicholas A. Christakis

Professor of Sociology Nicholas A. Christakis, a graduate of both Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School, takes the time to sit down with FM.

Full Article: The Harvard Crimson

Networked: Exploring the Weblike Structures That Underlie Everything from Friendship to Cellular Behavior

Exploring the weblike structures that underlie everything from friendship to cellular behavior.

Full Article: Harvard Magazine

How Your Social Networks Influence You

Our ideas, our emotions, our politics, our sex lives – even our weight and life spans – invisibly guided by network effects. Now it’s on Facebook, and in the streets of Egypt and beyond.

Full Article: NPR (On Point with Tom Ashbrook)

Foreign Policy Top 100 Global Thinkers

When historians look back to the moment when the post-Cold War reign of American power ended, they may well settle on 2010 as a crucial year. Everywhere, it seemed, there were signs that the long-predicted “rise of the rest” had finally occurred, whether in the newfound assertiveness of fast-growing China or the impatient diplomacy of new powers like Brazil and Turkey. Foreign Policy‘s second annual list of the Top 100 Global Thinkers fully reflects that new world. 

Full Article: Foreign Policy

Can Social Networks Help Prevent the Flu?

The flu season is just around the corner. Sorry, but it's true. Even though H1N1 isn't creating the panic it did last year, any sensible person wants to do whatever they can to know about any outbreak and avoid it if at all possible. Some new research may provide assistance in the effort to detect a potential epidemic before it spreads.

Full Article: NPR (Marketplace)

Better Health, With a Little Help From Our Friends

IS your social network making you fat? Are your friends and family influencing you to smoke and drink more, or to sleep less?And if our relationships contribute to behaviors that erode our health, can social networks be harnessed to improve it? These are seminal questions in “network science” — an emerging field that examines how behavioral changes spread through social networks. By social networks, I don’t mean virtual, will-you-“friend”-me? simulations, but old-fashioned, flesh-and-blood relationships. You know, people you actually see in person regularly — friends, relatives, co-workers, neighbors.

Full Article: The New York Times

Social Network Predicts Flu Spread

If you want to know when you'll catch the flu, just look at your friends. Researchers who tracked flu symptoms in the friends of a group of college students during the 2009 H1N1 "swine flu" pandemic predicted the flu outbreak in the general college population with at least 2 weeks' advance notice.

Full Article: Science

The ‘Contagion’ of Social Networks

The old folk concept that our personal health behaviors rub off on those around us has received a staggering amount of scientific support of late. Over the last few years, study after study has shown that weight gain, drug and alcohol use, even loneliness and depression aren't islands unto themselves but are powerfully contagious — capable of spreading within our social networks just as germs scatter after a sneeze.

Full Article: Los Angeles Times

A Healthy Relationship: The Mere Presence of Women Seems to Bring Health Benefits to Men

For hormone-addled teenagers, finding a date can often seem to be a matter of life and death. As it turns out, that may not be so far from the truth. In a paper in the August issue of Demography, a team of researchers led by Nicholas Christakis of Harvard University reports that men who reach sexual maturity in an environment with few available women are at risk of dying sooner than their luckier confrères. The team points out that this finding may have important implications for public health in countries such as India and China, where sex ratios are skewed against women.

Full Article: The Economist

Infectious Personalities: Social Networks Catch an Early Glimpse of Disease Outbreaks

Chances are your friends are more popular than you are. It is a basic feature of social networks that has been known about for some time. Consider both an avid cocktail party hostess with hundreds of acquaintances and a grumpy misanthrope, who may have one or two friends. Statistically speaking, the average person is much more likely to know the hostess simply because she has so many more friends. This, in essence, is what is called the “friendship paradox”: the friends of any random individual are likely to be more central to the social web than the individual himself.

Full Article: The Economist

At Six Degrees, We All Know Each Other [Um sechs Ecken herum kennen wir uns alle]

Alles, was wir tun, beeinflusst die Freunde der Freunde unserer Freunde. Und was diese tun, beeinflusst uns. Nicholas Christakis und James Fowler über soziale Ansteckung.

Full Article: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

We’re Connected: The Era of Social Networks [Conectados. La era de las redes sociales]

Cada vez es más fácil acercarse a ese ?sueño? de tener un millón de amigos. Las redes sociales en Internet -como Facebook, Tuenti, Twitter y MySpace- están cambiando totalmente la forma de relacionarnos con nuestros vecinos, conocidos, clientes, seguidores, compañeros de trabajo y aficiones, íntimos? Algunos ven riesgos de adicción y pérdida de privacidad y del verdadero sentido de la amistad, pero más de 900 millones de personas ya se han dejado seducir. Para muchos -como los nueve personajes que ilustran este reportaje- es la manera más novedosa de socializar y sentirse acompañados.

Full Article: El País

Totally Networked [Total vernetzt]

Von der Börsenpanik bis zur Nächstenliebe: Netzwerkforscher wollen die Gesellschaft verstehen, indem sie unsere Verbindungen erforschen. Dafür sammeln sie digitale Spuren, die wir täglich hinterlassen.

Full Article: Zeit Online

Has the Internet Changed the Way We Think? [Internet a-t-il changé les modes de pensée?]

"Comment l’internet transforme-t-il la façon dont vous pensez ?" Telle était la grande question annuelle posée par la revue "The Edge" à quelque 170 experts, scientifiques, artistes et penseurs.

Full Article: Le Monde

Foreign Policy Top 100 Global Thinkers

From the brains behind Iran's Green Revolution to the economic Cassandra who actually did have a crystal ball, they had the big ideas that shaped our world in 2009. 

Full Article: Foreign Policy

Valuing Social Networks: Are Connections Worth More Than Money?

Full Article: Business Week

You and Your Friend’s Friend’s Friends

For those of us not actively toiling in a university, most modern writing in the social sciences can be placed into one of three categories. The first category, which is vast, consists of the arcane and the incremental — those studies so obscure, or which advance scholarship so infinitesimally, that they can be safely ignored by the general reader. (Not that this work isn’t important; it keeps academic publishing in business, and significant knowledge accretes in tiny drips on the way to tenure.) The second category consists of statistical proof of the obvious. (Some actual study findings published recently: “the parent-child relationship . . . commonly includes feelings of irritation, tension and ambivalence”; women are more likely to engage in casual sex with “an exceptionally attractive man”; and driving while text-messaging leads to “a substantial increase in the risk of being involved in a safety-critical event such as a crash.” Thank you, social science!) And in the third category, which is surely the smallest, are works of brilliant originality that stimulate and enlighten and can sometimes even change the way we under­stand the world.

Full Article: The New York Times Sunday Book Review

Exploring How We Connect, And What It Means

How do our friends, and friends of our friends, affect us? In their new book Connected, Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler describe research into how social networks tie into health and human behavior, including obesity, smoking, voting and happiness.

Full Article: NPR (Science Friday)

The Buddy System: How Medical Data Revealed Secret to Health and Happiness

A revolution in the science of social networks began with a stash of old papers found in a storeroom in Framingham, Massachusetts. They were the personal records of 5,124 male and female subjects from the Framingham Heart Study. Started in 1948, the ongoing project has revealed many of the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease, including smoking and hypertension.

Full Article: Wired Magazine

Are Your Friends Making You Fat?

By analyzing the Framingham data, Christakis and Fowler say, they have for the first time found some solid basis for a potentially powerful theory in epidemiology: that good behaviors — like quitting smoking or staying slender or being happy — pass from friend to friend almost as if they were contagious viruses. The Framingham participants, the data suggested, influenced one another’s health just by socializing. And the same was true of bad behaviors — clusters of friends appeared to “infect” each other with obesity, unhappiness and smoking. Staying healthy isn’t just a matter of your genes and your diet, it seems. Good health is also a product, in part, of your sheer proximity to other healthy people. By keeping in close, regular contact with other healthy friends for decades, Eileen and Joseph had quite possibly kept themselves alive and thriving. And by doing precisely the opposite, the lone obese man hadn’t.

Full Article: New York Times Magazine — Front Page

Time 100 Most Influential People in the World

Social scientists used to have a straightforward, if tongue-in-cheek, answer to the question of how to become happy: Surround yourself with people who are uglier, poorer and shorter than you are — and who are unhappily married and have annoying kids. You will compare yourself with these people, and the contrast will cheer you up.

Full Article: Time

Genes and the Friends You Make

Genes play an important role in how people make friends and form social networks, according to a new study that may help researchers better understand the spread of ideas and diseases in a society.

Full Article: The Wall Street Journal

Friendship as a Health Factor

In a string of hot articles, two social scientists report that obesity, smoking, and other behaviors "spread" in networks. As the two friends expand their theory, doubters sharpen their questions.

Full Article: Science

The Happiness Effect

The next time you get the flu, there will almost certainly be someone you can blame for your pain. There's the inconsiderate co-worker who decided to drag himself to the office and spent the day sniffling, sneezing and shivering in the cubicle next to yours. Or your child's best friend, the one who showed up for a playdate with a runny nose and a short supply of tissues. Then there's the guy at the gym who spent more time sneezing than sweating on the treadmill before you used it.

Full Article: Time

New Reason to Be Happy: It May Go a Long Way

Happiness ripples well beyond a person's inner circle of friends and family, lifting the mood of an extended network of social contacts who might even be strangers, according to a provocative study published today.

Full Article: Boston Globe — Front Page

Your Whole World Smiles With You

Happiness is contagious, spreading among friends, neighbors, siblings and spouses like the flu, according to a large study that for the first time shows how emotion can ripple through clusters of people who may not even know each other.

Full Article: Washington Post

Harvard Study: Happiness Really Is Contagious

We’ve all had experiences where the sight of someone smiling makes us smile, the sound of laughter makes us laugh. Well, turns out that there’s some science behind all that.

Full Article: NPR (WBUR)

Culture Can Change Our Genes [Kultur Verändert die Gene]

Der US-Mediziner Nicholas Christakis über die überschätzte Macht des Erbguts, die Wirkung sozialer Ansteckung und die erstaunliche Geschwindigkeit der menschlichen Evolution.

Full Article: Der Spiegel

Social Networks’ Sway May Be Underestimated

Facebook, MySpace and other Web sites have unleashed a potent new phenomenon of social networking in cyberspace. But at the same time, a growing body of evidence is suggesting that traditional social networks play a surprisingly powerful and underrecognized role in influencing how people behave.

Full Article: Washington Post

For Smokers, Quitting May Be Contagious

For better or worse, friends and family members can influence your health. If a close friend or spouse quits smoking, you're more likely to quit, medical experts say. But what if your friends' friends give up cigarettes? A recent study shows that the influence of social networks extends much further than you might think.

Full Article: NPR (Morning Edition)

Study Finds Big Social Factor in Quitting Smoking

Full Article: The New York Times

Contagious Suicide [Selbsmord durch Ansteckung]

Breiten sich Religionen und politische Überzeugungen wie Epidemien aus? Sind auch Suizid, Fett- und Trunksucht ansteckend? Soziologen gehen diesen Fragen mit neuartigen Verfahren auf den Grund: Sie füttern Computer mit den Lebensdaten riesiger Menschenmengen.

Full Article: Der Spiegel

A Deep-Rooted Human Desire [Tiefes Menschliches Bedürfnis]

Der Harvard-Forscher Nicholas Christakis, 46, untersucht am Beispiel einerstudentischen Internet-Gemeinschaft, wie Menschen zueinanderfinden.

Full Article: Der Spiegel

Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?

A seven-part documentary series exploring racial and socioeconomic inequalities in health.

Full Article: PBS Documentary

Amid Groups of Friends He Looks for Keys to Health

"People are social animals," said Harvard researcher Nicholas Christakis, who believes doctors will better understand their patients when they view them as social beings.

Full Article: Boston Globe (Meeting the Minds)

Obesity “Contagion” — Ellen Goodman

Let me rise (from the breakfast table) in defense of Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler. The doctor and the political scientist were used to having a rather meager portion of academic attention. But now their cup and their inbox runneth over with charges of hate-mongering, size-ism, and fat discrimination. They've been held personally responsible for increasing the social ostracism of the obese.

Full Article: Boston Globe

Obesity Spreads Through Friends, Family, Study Finds

Full Article: Newshour

Are Your Friends Making You Fat?

A new study suggests that your best friend's weight may be very influential in determining whether you'll gain or lose weight over the years. The research documents the spread of obesity from person to person in a study of more than 12,000 people.

Full Article: NPR (Morning Edition)

Can Your Friends Make You Fat?

Friendship offers support, laughter _ and the occasional spare tire. Just ask Jamie Tighe, a 35-year-old stay-at-home mother in Franklin, Mass. In college, Ms. Tighe and her friends "all gained weight together." Then she and her best friend added more poundage over Margaritas and chips. Her appetite -- and her avoirdupois -- spread to her husband, Kevin Tighe, who she says had been "rip cut" when they married.

Full Article: The Wall Street Journal

Obesity Spreads In Social Circles As Trends Do, Study Indicates

Obesity appears to spread from one person to another like a virus or a fad, researchers reported yesterday in a first-of-its-kind study that helps explain -- and could help fight -- one of the nation's biggest public health problems.

Full Article: Washington Post — Front Page

Is Obesity Contagious?

Tonight's story focuses on a report from the Framingham Heart Study that suggests that obesity – and thinness – can spread through social ties. And it's not just that obese people tend to hang out together. If one of a pair of mutual friends BECOMES obese (defined as Body Mass Index, or BMI>= 30) then the risk of the other becoming obese increases by 171%! And social closeness is much more important than geographic closeness. There was no effect for next door neighbors who weren't friends. But a friend 1,000 miles away influences you as much as a friend next door.

Full Article: CBS News

Sympathy Pounds

An important new medical study finds that friends who put on excessive weight are a major factor in a person's risk for obesity.

Full Article: Business Week

Obesity Is Contagious, Study Finds

Wondering why your waistline is expanding? Have a look at those of your friends. Your close friends can influence your weight even more than genes or your family members, according to new research appearing in the July 26 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine. The study's authors suggest that obesity isn't just spreading; rather, it may be contagious between people, like a common cold.

Full Article: Time

Study: Obesity Can Spread Among Friends

Full Article: Associated Press

Social Support Shields Spouse from Damage of Caregiving

Full Article: Boston Globe

Spousal Risk of Death Linked to Partner’s Hospitalization

A new study shows that spouses have a higher risk of death when their partners are hospitalized during a given year. That risk increases when their partners are suffering from severely mentally or physically disabling conditions such as dementia or a psychiatric illness.

Full Article: NPR (Morning Edition)

Study Details Risk of Death for Those Caring for Elderly Spouses

Full Article: The New York Times

Prognosis: Death. Why Won’t Doctor’s Level with Terminally Ill Patients?

It's a rainy Sunday afternoon, and Nicholas A. Christakis has just received sad news. Frances Holbrook*--"a wonderful old lady," he says--died that morning before he could get to her. Not that he could have saved her, or would have tried: Christakis is a doctor, but his patients rarely survive. His practice is in hospice care.

Full Article: Chicago Reader

The Truth Can Comfort the Dying, a Physician Argues

He says too many doctors only diagnose and heal, shunning prognostication, medicine's third leg. Nicholas A. Christakis is a handsome, healthy, middle-aged man with a scar about an inch and a half long on the right side of his neck, left over from a minor operation, and when he talks about dying he tends to run his finger along the faint red line.

Full Article: The Chronicle of Higher Education