Tag Archives | Communication

Secrets and Misperceptions: The Creation of Self-Fulfilling Illusions

Sarah K. Cowan

Sociological Science, November 3, 2014
DOI 10.15195/v1.a26


This study examines who hears what secrets, comparing two similar secrets — one which is highly stigmatized and one which is less so. Using a unique survey representative of American adults and intake forms from a medical clinic, I document marked differences in who hears these secrets. People who are sympathetic to the stigmatizing secret are more likely to hear of it than those who may react negatively. This is a consequence not just of people selectively disclosing their own secrets but selectively sharing others’ as well. As a result, people in the same social network will be exposed to and influenced by different information about those they know and hence experience that network differently. When people effectively exist in networks tailored by others to not offend then the information they hear tends to be that of which they already approve. Were they to hear secrets they disapprove of then their attitudes might change but they are less likely to hear those secrets. As such, the patterns of secret-hearing contribute to a stasis in public opinion.
 Sarah K. Cowan: New York University  E-mail: sarahkcowan@nyu.edu

  • Citation: Cowan, Sarah K. 2014. “Secrets and Misperceptions: The Creation of Self-Fulfilling Illusions” Sociological Science 1: 466-492.
  • Received: July 22, 2014
  • Accepted: August 31, 2014
  • Editors: Jesper Sørensen,  Olav Sorenson
  • DOI: 10.15195/v1.a26

Finding Cultural Holes: How Structure and Culture Diverge in Networks of Scholarly Communication

Daril A. Vilhena, Jacob G. Foster, Martin Rosvall, Jevin D. West, James Evans, Carl T. Bergstrom

Sociological Science, June 9, 2014
DOI 10.15195/v1.a15


Divergent interests, expertise, and language form cultural barriers to communication. No formalism has been available to characterize these “cultural holes.” Here we use information theory to measure cultural holes and demonstrate our formalism in the context of scientific communication using papers from JSTOR. We extract scientific fields from the structure of citation flows and infer field-specific cultures by cataloging phrase frequencies in full text and measuring the relative efficiency of between-field communication. We then combine citation and cultural information in a novel topographic map of science, mapping citations to geographic distance and cultural holes to topography. By analyzing the full citation network, we find that communicative efficiency decays with citation distance in a field-specific way. These decay rates reveal hidden patterns of cohesion and fragmentation. For example, the ecological sciences are balkanized by jargon, whereas the social sciences are relatively integrated. Our results highlight the importance of enriching structural analyses with cultural data.

Daril A. Vilhena: Department of Biology, University of Washington. E-mail: daril@uw.edu

Jacob G. Foster: Department of Sociology, University of California-Los Angeles. E-mail: foster@soc.ucla.edu

Martin Rosvall: Department of Physics,University of Umea. E-mail: martin.rosvall@physics.umu.se

Jevin D. West: Information School, University of Washington. E-mail: jevinw@u.washington.edu

James Evans: Department of Sociology, University of Chicago. E-mail: jevans@uchicago.edu

Carl T. Bergstrom: Department of Biology, University of Washington. E-mail: cbergst@u.washinton.edu

  • Citation: Vilhena, Daril A., Jacob G. Foster, Martin Rosvall, Jevin D. West, James Evans, and Carl T. Bergstrom. 2014. “Finding Cultural Holes: How Structure and Culture Diverge in Networks of Scholarly Communication.” Sociological Science 1: 221-238.
  • Received: December 20, 2013
  • Accepted: February 8, 2014
  • Editors: Jesper Sørensen, Delia Baldassarri
  • DOI: 10.15195/v1.a15