This paper advances theories of social learning through an empirical examination of how social networks change over time. Social networks are important for learning because they constrain individuals' access to information about the behaviors and cognitions of other people. Using data on a large social network of mobile device users over a one-month time period, we test three hypotheses: 1) attraction homophily causes individuals to form ties on the basis of attribute similarity, 2) aversion homophily causes individuals to delete existing ties on the basis of attribute dissimilarity, and 3) social influence causes individuals to adopt the attributes of others they share direct ties with. Statistical models offer varied degrees of support for all three hypotheses and show that these mechanisms are more complex than assumed in prior work. Although homophily is normally thought of as a process of attraction, people also avoid relationships with others who are different. These mechanisms have distinct effects on network structure. While social influence does help explain behavior, people tend to follow global trends more than they follow their friends.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)