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How Behavior Spreads

Damon Centola

  • Hardcover
ISBN: 9780691175317
How Behavior Spreads
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  • Hardcover
ISBN: 9780691175317

Publisher Description

A new, counterintuitive theory for how social networks influence the spread of behavior

New social movements, technologies, and public-health initiatives often struggle to take off, yet many diseases disperse rapidly without issue. Can the lessons learned from the viral diffusion of diseases be used to improve the spread of beneficial behaviors and innovations? In How Behavior Spreads, Damon Centola presents over a decade of original research examining how changes in societal behavior--in voting, health, technology, and finance-occur and the ways social networks can be used to influence how they propagate. Centola's startling findings show that the same conditions accelerating the viral expansion of an epidemic unexpectedly inhibit the spread of behaviors.

While it is commonly believed that "weak ties"-long-distance connections linking acquaintances-lead to the quicker spread of behaviors, in fact the exact opposite holds true. Centola demonstrates how the most well-known, intuitive ideas about social networks have caused past diffusion efforts to fail, and how such efforts might succeed in the future. Pioneering the use of Web-based methods to understand how changes in people's social networks alter their behaviors, Centola illustrates the ways in which these insights can be applied to solve countless problems of organizational change, cultural evolution, and social innovation. His findings offer important lessons for public health workers, entrepreneurs, and activists looking to harness networks for social change.

Practical and informative, How Behavior Spreads is a must-read for anyone interested in how the theory of social networks can transform our world.

Author Biography

Damon Centola is an associate professor in the Annenberg School for Communication and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is director of the Network Dynamics Group.


"Overall, How Behavior Spreads is a must-read for researchers who are interested in social networks, social change, communication and technology, and computational social science. The lessons drawn from the book can also help health workers, movement activists, managers, user experiences designers to improve the success of diffusion and induce behavior change within a community."---Yu Xu, Information, Communication & Society "Overall the book is well written and engaging, with plenty of discussion about the experiments that go into the conclusions, and on reading it, it is clear that there is a lot more to be done so that we can better implement lasting health strategies, and political engagement amongst many, many other complex behaviours."---Jonathan Shock, Mathemafrica "[Centola's] ideas have exciting implications for social engineering, whether related to vaccination adoption in the developing world or a reduction of energy use in the West. . . . [They] present an appealing possibility to meet one of the challenges of democracy in the internet age."---Nina Jankowicz, New Scientist "Winner of the Harrison White Book Award, Mathematical Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association"

Product Details

Damon Centola
Princeton University Press
The Science of Complex Contagions
Country of Publication
United States
Princeton Analytical Sociology Series
53 b/w illus.
Translated from
Publication Date