BBC News reports on a new Social Science and Medicine article, showing that rates of depression peak in mid-life, around age 44.
Sociologist Duncan Watts is getting some press for his challenge to science journalist Malcolm Gladwell’s famous “Tipping Point” argument, in particular Gladwell’s “Law of the Few”: the idea that a few well-connected people, dubbed “Influentials,” make or break trends.
Fast Company’s Clive Thompson describes Watts’ work:
[Watts] has analyzed email patterns and found that highly connected people are not, in fact, crucial social hubs. He has written computer models of rumor spreading and found that your average slob is just as likely as a well-connected person to start a huge new trend. And last year, Watts demonstrated that even the breakout success of a hot new pop band might be nearly random. Any attempt to engineer success through Influentials, he argues, is almost certainly doomed to failure.
Ars Technica’s Julian Sanchez recounts an interview with Watts from 2004:
“We knew 50 years ago that this model was wrong. After the fact, and this is why Gladwell’s book is so beguiling, you see that crime rates dropped or Hush Puppies took off and then you can always find the people with whom it started,” he told me. “But if it’s something about them, why aren’t they driving all the other trends? What turns out to be the deciding factor is not the ‘influentials’ but the people who are easily influenced. You might have someone who influences five times as many people as the average, but the total numbers relative to a population are still very small. Almost all of the action is away from the center.”
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, David Grusky, sociology professor and founding director of Stanford University’s Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality, announces the inaugural publication of Pathways, a new quarterly magazine dedicated to contemporary public policy. This issue features essays from candidates Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama on how each would approach a new ‘war on poverty.’
What the candidates say:
“The candidates’ policy recommendations include: tripling the Earned Income Tax Credit (Obama), creating at least 5 million “green collar” jobs (Clinton) and repealing the Bush tax cut for families earning more than $200,000 per year (Edwards).”
Inside Higher Ed recently published an interview with Kathleen A. Bogle, assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice at LaSalle University, on her new book Hooking Up: Sex, Dating, and Relationships on Campus which explores the ‘hookup culture’ of college life through the study of two East Coast universities. Her in-depth interviews reveal varying effects for men and women and the relationship of this pattern of behavior to issues of alcohol use and sexual assault. Risky sex? No as much as you might think…
The Obama campaign announced the debunking effort with an e-mail barrage from John Kerry of Massachusetts, in which the former presidential candidate urges supporters to “e-mail the truth” to everyone on their address books, to print out the facts about Obama’s background and post them at work, and to call local radio stations and talk to neighbors.
Wired talked to Gary Alan Fine about whether this strategy would work and Fine was skeptical. “It underlines the attack,” Fine says. “Sometimes defenses against rumors work; sometimes they backfire…What you want to do, when you deny the rumor, you only want to deny it to the people who originally heard it.”