"Contagious" Memories

Posted on November 17, 2015

Photo source: Flickr

New research using advanced computer modeling sheds light on how behaviors may become “contagious” in large groups, showing that the memory of one individual can indirectly influence that of another via shared social connections. The findings are published in Psychological Science.

“In large social networks, our model demonstrated that information is ‘contagious’ in much the same way that behavior seems to be contagious,” say researchers Christian Luhmann and Suparna Rajaram of Stony Brook University. “These results suggest that information transmission is a critical mechanism underlying the social transmission of behavior.”

While research has shown that various behaviors, including smoking, seem to spread throughout social networks, the mechanisms driving this behavioral contagion remain mysterious. To shed light on these contagious phenomena, Luhmann and Rajaram decided to incorporate well-established cognitive processes into computer models capable of simulating groups much larger than those typically seen in laboratory research. In doing so, they would be able to see how individuals interact, and how information flows, within groups that ranged from two to 500 people.

Results of the study largely echoed those found in small-scale experiments with real people. Specifically, the three-person groups were able to recall significantly fewer items than were the three individuals combined together, a phenomenon known as “collaborative inhibition.” The findings indicated that this occurs because individuals who learn together in groups tend to converge on similar information, limiting the overall amount of information that can be learned by the group.

Follow the link below for a detailed report of these findings.


Category(s):Creative Blocks, Other

Source material from Association for Psychological Science


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