Friendship networks and social status

In empirical studies of friendship networks participants are typically asked, in interviews or questionnaires, to identify some or all of their close friends, resulting in a directed network in which friendships can, and often do, run in only one direction between a pair of individuals. Here we analyze a large collection of such networks representing friendships among students at US high and junior-high schools and show that the pattern of unreciprocated friendships is far from random. In every network, without exception, we find that there exists a ranking of participants, from low to high, such that almost all unreciprocated friendships consist of a lower-ranked individual claiming friendship with a higher-ranked one. We present a maximum-likelihood method for deducing such rankings from observed network data and conjecture that the rankings produced reflect a measure of social status. We note in particular that reciprocated and unreciprocated friendships obey different statistics, suggesting different formation processes, and that rankings are correlated with other characteristics of the participants that are traditionally associated with status, such as age and overall popularity as measured by total number of friends.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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