Six degrees: A friend of a friend

Published: August 11, 2007 | Last Updated: August 16, 2007 By | 2 Replies Continue Reading

Psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted a landmark experiment at Harvard University in the 1960s that looked at the “small world” phenomenon. Using snail mail correspondence, Milgram asked his study participants to forward an information packet about the study to the person they knew—who was mostly likely to know the person ultimately targeted to receive the correspondence…

Although the majority of the mailings never reached their destination, among those that did, the average length of the social path from the first person to the target recipient was 5.5 or 6 people. Based on this research, others later coined this phenomenon the “six degrees of separation” between people. More recently, Tipping Point author Malcolm Gladwell talked about the “funneling” concept—that some people are “connectors” with large networks of social contacts.

One very practical take-home message from this research: When you are in a classroom or at cocktail party, conference or other social event where you don’t know anyone, it’s always fun to play the strategic game of figuring out who or what you have in common. Anyone can become a “connector” and with any degree of luck, you may be able to strike up a new friendship based on shared history, values, interests, or friendships.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: Uncategorized

Comments (2)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anonymous says:

    While I don’t personally believe that everything happens for a reason (but understand why other people do believe it), I enjoy the discovery of unexpected connections and paths crossing that you’d never anticipate. Whether “six degrees” occurs because of coincidence or divine intervention isn’t what matters to me. What matters is what I do with it, if I take advantage of it to connect further or deeper with someone who had never been on my radar.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I really believe that at some point people have connections unconsciously. I don’t believe that it is just mere incidence. Things happen for a reason so there must be some hidden connection between you and your friend. Well, for some, they may have some problems in relationships, they may still have that connection but in different aspects in their lives. Jealous women might not be perfect for serious bachelors but for some it just fits. Life is full of complexity. Yet, socially we thrive to belong with each other.

Leave a Reply