'Fundamentally we're better together'
Cass Business School was delighted to welcome Professor Nicholas Christakis of Yale University to speak as part of the Dean's Lecture Series.
Christakis took the audience on a fast-paced journey through the history of his research that examines the effects and phenomena of the face-to-face networks of society.
Specifically he tracked how a wide variety of traits - from happiness to obesity to altruism - can spread from person to person. For example, through his work on obesity, Professor Christakis demonstrated that:
"If your friends are obese, your risk of obesity is 45% higher… if your friend's friends are obese, your risk of obesity is 25% higher. It's only when you get to your friend's friend's friend's friends that there's no longer a relationship between that person's body size and your own body size."
His research is currently being applied to:
- Facilitate the diffusion of public health practices in the developing world. Evidence suggests if 5% of the population are strategically targeted, according to their position within a social network, e.g. a village or a school, you can get the whole group to change its behaviour. These behaviours range from changing the practice of open defecation in Indian villages to implementing clean water interventions in Honduras.
- Encourage better co-operation and reduce trolling in online groups
- Reduce bullying in schools, or isolation in nursing homes
- Facilitate the diffusion of innovations within networks of practicing physicians, or within networks of engineers in firms.
In 2009, Professor Christakis was named by Time magazine on its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, and also, in 2009 and 2010, by Foreign Policy magazine on its list of 100 top global thinkers.