Why Your Friends Are More Important and Special Than You Think

Thomas U. Grund

Sociological Science, April 14, 2014
DOI 10.15195/v1.a10

A large amount of research finds associations between individuals’ attributes and the position of individuals in network structures. In this article, I illustrate how such associations systematically affect the assessment of attributes through network neighbors. The friendship paradox—a general regularity in network contexts, which states that your friends are likely to have more friends than you—becomes relevant and extends to individuals’ attributes as well. First, I show that your friends are likely to be better informed (closeness), better intermediaries (betweenness) and more powerful (eigenvector) than you. Second, I suggest more generally that your friends are likely to be more special in their attributes than the population at large. Finally, I investigate the implications of this phenomenon in a dynamic setting. Applying calibrated agent-based simulations, I use a model of attribute adoption to emphasize how structurally introduced experiences penetrate the trajectory of social processes. Existing research does not yet adequately acknowledge this phenomenon.

Thomas U. Grund: Stockholm University. E-mail: thomas.u.grund@gmail.com

  • Citation: Thomas U. Grund. 2014. “Why Your Friends Are More Important and Special Than You Think.” Sociological Science 1: 128–140
  • Received: December 14, 2013
  • Accepted: December 27, 2o13
  • Editors: Jesper Sørensen, Ezra Zuckerman
  • DOI: 10.15195/v1.a10

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