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Oct. 15 | From Chatter to Action: How Social Networks Inform and Motivate

  • 509 Knox Hall 606 West 122nd Street New York, NY, 10027 United States (map)

WHEN: Monday, October 15, 2018, 12:00 - 2:00 p.m.

WHERE: Knox Hall 509, 606 W 122nd Street

This event is free and open to the public. Lunch and light refreshments will be provided. All are welcome!

From election campaigns to public service announcements, numerous political activities and policy interventions hinge on the spread of new information that motivates behavior. However, few studies directly examine the process by which information spreads via word-of-mouth, or compare that to the separate process by which those who learn the information act on it. Using a novel design that seeded valuable, actionable information in rural Uganda, we show that both processes depend on a group's social network, but in different ways. Information spread via a straightforward contagion process. Behavior did not spread so simply; those who acted were socially proximate to the earliest actors and saw endorsement by their most intimate ties.  Puzzlingly, while those most central in the network were most likely to hear the information,  those who ultimately acted were the least central among the informed.   Connections to highly-connected peers may generate pressure to refrain from doing something new.

Jennifer Larson is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University.  Her research focuses on the informational role of ties in social networks: people tend to share information with each other, and often that information is gossip about other people.   Just how the social ties are arranged in the social network-- who is connected to whom-- can affect how informed people are, possibly about each other.  This has consequences for how well groups can coordinate tasks and enforce norms.  The subjects of this research span regions -- from the American western frontier to rural Uganda-- and time-- from the Late Pleistocene to the 21st century.  The social networks under study range from sets of interactions in online social media to fully offline, personal connections in word-of-mouth communication networks.  She received her Ph. D. in political science from Harvard University in 2012, and her B. A. in mathematics and political science from Creighton University in 2006.

The Networks and Time seminar is part of the Paul F. Lazarsfeld Lecture Series sponsored by INCITE (Interdisciplinary Center for Innovative Theory and Empirics).

Knox Hall is located at the intersection of West 122nd Street and Broadway (606 West 122nd Street, New York, NY 10027).

For inquiries about Networks and Time, please contact Mark Hoffman ( or Eugene Grey (