Behaviour of social contagion in social networks

First I am going to explain what social contagion is and give an example of it. Then we can look into how it affects our world today and our daily lives, again with some examples. Then we’ll look into how social contagion fits in with ‘close’ social networks, by that i mean social networks where all the nodes are connected with strong ties, rather than weak ties.

What is social contagion?

Social contagion is an effect that occurs all the time in our society. It is the spread of emotions between people e.g. fear or happiness, it is called a contagion because of how it spreads between people similarly to a virus. It can be defined as,

The spread of affect or behaviour from one crowd participant to another; one person serves as the stimulus for the imitative actions of another”(Marsden, 1998)

A common example of social contagion is about the readers of Johann von Goethe’s  “The sorrows of Young Werther” in which the main character commits suicide(Marsden, 1998). After the publication of that book there was an increase of suicides across Europe. This shows that not only can people affect other people with their emotions. But people can also be affected by fictional characters. Which makes sense,e considering fictional characters are made to elicit an emotional response from the viewer or reader.

Social contagion today

Society today is filled with many different emotions, fear, skepticism. There are a lot more negative emotions spreading than there used to be. Let’s look at the USA for example, during the election there was a spread of hate when Trump was saying he was going to, build a wall or ban muslims from the country(Kravetz, 2017). This then was in part because of social contagion. Although this a very negative example doesn’t mean that social contagion can only happen for negative emotions. Social contagion is also great tool for use in the workplace for increasing efficiency and worker satisfaction(Kravetz, 2017). By letting workers put more trust in each other and loving each other as good friends, the workers then enjoyed their time at work more.  Letting them feel a type of love called companionate love.

Social contagion in social networks

So now that we know what social contagion is and have seen some examples of how it works in today’s society. We can look into how it behaves in a social network. Social contagion works between people that you can say have a strong tie between them. That they are people who are like minded in a sense, the fact that there is some similarities between the people in the social network lets them accept the social transmission from their peers. Social contagion spreads between people who have strong ties connecting them. Which lets the people band together. As in what we said earlier with the spread of hatred during the election in the USA. Here there is a group of like minded individuals that spread the hate, with how their peers view them it is more likely that they then imitate the same emotions rather than create their own emotional bias. Therefore the its is important to realise when one has been infected by a social contagion, so that one can make up their own mind on the subject.



Marsden, Paul. (1998), Memetics & Social Contagion: Two sides of the Same Coin?. The Journal of Memetics: Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission 1998 vol. 2. [Internet], Available from:<> [Read 15.11.2017]

Kravetz, Lee Daniel, (2017), Social contagion makes it easy to spread fear and hate. Here’s how to spread their opposite, [Internet], Quartz, Available from:<> [Read 16.11.2017]