Contagious Behaviors

“Lie Down With Dogs, Get Up With Fleas”

How our communities- of choice, birth, and chance – both form and inform us.

Mom used to tell you to choose your friends wisely.  Gurus advise their devotees to form “sanghas” or spiritual communities.  Now science has put some very precise numbers and reasoning behind these aphorisms and advice.

It’s been said in NLP for decades that with sufficient rapport you can get almost anyone to do almost anything. The meta-message was that rapport was perhaps the easiest and most common form of manipulation.

Here’s a fascinating study of the power of unconscious rapport, how it shapes and influences behavior over time both in individuals and groups.

Based on the famous 50 year Framingham study (originally done to track heart disease in a long term population) fascinating evidence is being found that behaviors are ‘contagious’ within a social network.

“Obesity was only the beginning. Over the next year, the sociologist and the political scientist continued to analyze the Framingham data, finding more and more examples of contagious behavior. Smoking, they discovered, also appeared to spread socially in fact, a friend taking up smoking increased your chance of lighting up by 36 percent, and if you had a three-degrees-removed friend who started smoking, you were 11 percent more likely to do the same. Drinking spread socially, as did happiness and even loneliness. And in each case ones individual influence stretched out three degrees before it faded out.

They termed this the three degrees of influence rule about human behavior: “We are tied not just to those around us, but to others in a web that stretches farther than we know.”

Full article here: Are your friends making you fat?

So, you want to be happy? Find happy people and hang out with them.


Tom Dotz

PS For more on Social Influence check out Charles Faulkner’s “Creating Irresistible Influence

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