The concept of contagion has steadily expanded from its original grounding in epidemic disease to describe a vast array of processes that spread across networks, notably social phenomena such as fads, political opinions, the adoption of new technologies, and financial decisions. (...) We find that the probability of contagion is tightly controlled by the number of connected components in an individual's contact neighborhood, rather than by the actual size of the neighborhood. Surprisingly, once this “structural diversity” is controlled for, the size of the contact neighborhood is in fact generally a negative predictor of contagion. More broadly, our analysis shows how data at the size and resolution of the Facebook network make possible the identification of subtle structural signals that go undetected at smaller scales yet hold pivotal predictive roles for the outcomes of social processes.
Structural diversity in social contagion
Johan Ugander, Lars Backstrom, Cameron Marlow, and Jon Kleinberg