[Busec] B.U. Health Policy Institute Seminar, 5/22, 4:00pm, SMG Rm 302

Bestavros, Azer best at bu.edu
Thu May 17 11:18:00 EDT 2012

Title: The Spread of Behavior in Social Networks
Speaker: Damon Centola, Ph.D. - MIT Sloan School of Management
Date: May 22, 2012
Time: 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Place: BU School of Management, 595 Commonwealth Ave, Room 302

The Boston University Health Policy Institute is pleased to announce the closing seminar in its 2011 - 2012 Health Policy and Management Seminar Series.

Professor Damon Centola of MIT will present "The Spread of Behavior in Social Networks" on Tuesday, May 22, 2012, 4:00 - 5:30 pm, in SMG Room 302.


In public health and health product adoption, advertising campaigns frequently rely on "word of mouth" through social networks in order to promote information diffusion about a new product or behavior.   Recent advances in network theory have shown how specific topological features of social networks can amplify the diffusion of both disease and information - suggesting that important advances in network epidemiology may also be useful for structuring new product campaigns.  However, recent theoretical work also shows that the dynamics of behavioral diffusion in peer-to-peer networks can respond very differently to the topological properties of networks.  For behaviors that are particularly costly, difficult, or unfamiliar, these differences may be more pronounced.  My findings show that many of the campaigns of greatest interest to firms and public health officials may not benefit from network strategies aimed at the rapid diffusion of information.  I present findings from a series of novel experiments designed to study the dynamics of behavioral diffusion in large social networks.  The results show a striking effect of network topology on the diffusion of health behavior, contrary to the expectations of classical network theory.


Professor Centola is a faculty member in the Behavioral and Policy Sciences research group at the MIT Sloan School of Management.  His research addresses theoretical and empirical problems in the diffusion of collective behavior.  His core sociological interest is how individual actions aggregate to produce (often unexpected) collective outcomes.  This includes the mobilization of social movements, the self-organization of ethnic communities and cultural enclaves, the spread of health behaviors (such as vaccination, dieting, and condom use), and the coordination of collective beliefs (such as religious extremism and social sanctioning practices).  Before coming to MIT, Professor Centola was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholar in Health Policy Research at Harvard University, and had been a visiting scholar at the Brookings Institution, the Santa Fe Institute, the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy, and the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies.

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