Thursday, February 28, 2002

LET US NOW PRAISE BJORN LOMBORGS: This gal gives the Lomborg treatment to the concept of six degrees of separation; it's the "Lomborg treatment" because the gal was actually a fan of the originator of "six degrees" --Stanley Milgram-- but once she did the research the numbers said something else:

Perhaps Milgram was right that we live in a world with six degrees of separation. Perhaps he had discovered a fundamental and universal truth about the human world. But the evidence was simply not there. The inescapable fact is that the great majority of chains were never completed. To put it another way, the vast majority of people could not reach the target person. Of the 296 possible chains in the technical research report , 217 chains were started, and 64 were completed--a success rate of only 29% (Travers & Milgram, 1969). Again, a careful reading of the technical report also shows that the starters had social advantages; they were far from a random or representative group. The three starter groups were: (a) 100 blue chip stock owners from Nebraska recruited from a mailing list, (b) 96 people from Nebraska designated as the "Nebraska random" group [quotations in the original] but actually recruited from a mailing list, and (c) 100 people from Boston designated as the "Boston random" group [quotations in the original] but actually recruited from a newspaper advertisement. All would have had a leg up in making social connections to a Boston stockbroker. The Bostonians lived in the same city. The blue chip stock owners were apt to have business connections to a stockbroker. The Nebraska starters were recruited from mailing lists apt to contain names of higher income people.

Milgram's subsequent study of acquaintance networks between racial groups also reveals not only a low rate of chain completion but also the importance of social divides (Korte & Milgram, 1970). White starters in Los Angeles, solicited through mailing lists, tried to reach both white and "Negro" targets in New York. Of the 270 chains started and directed toward "Negro" targets, only 13% got through compared to 33% of the 270 chains directed toward white targets. The results suggest again that, far from living in a small, inter-connected world, we live in a world with racial barriers.

Via Cursor.

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