Who has not heard the famous adage: “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with”?
The fact that we are influenced by the people we spend the most time with, and that our future is impacted if not shaped by these very interactions feels like a certitude to many of us.
But, it turns out not to be true. Or, at least, it turns out not to be exact.
It is, actually, much bigger than that.
Social science and network theory, have established through the work of Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, “how our friends’friends’friends affect everything we feel, think and do.
From analyzing the data set of one of the largest and longest-running health studies ever, the Framingham Heart Study, Christakis and Fowler were able to show the increased likeness for you to put on weight when someone in your network becomes obese.
Their results were the following, as reported by David Burkus “if a friend of yours becomes obese, you yourself are 45 percent more likely than chance to gain weight over the next two to four years. More surprisingly, however, Christakis and Fowler found that if a friend of your friend becomes obese, your likelihood of gaining weight increases by about 20 percent — even if you don’t know that friend of a friend. The effect continues one more person out. If a friend of the friend of your friend develops obesity, you are still 10 percent more likely than random chance to gain weight as well. “
And this is just one example. Other studies suggest that our tastes, health, wealth, happiness, beliefs, just like our weight, are under the influence of the people close to us, the people close to them, and people we did not even meet.
It’s not only the 5 people who we spend the most time with that impact our future, it is everyone who is part of our network until at least 3 degrees out says science. How mind-boggling is that?
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