The Strength of Weak Ties. Granovetter. American Journal of Sociology 1973.


  1. Considers the macro implication of small-scale of interaction through the strength of dyadic (binary) ties
  2. “It is argued that the degree of overlap of two individuals’ friendship networks varies directly with the strength of their tie to one another.”
  3. “Stress is laid on the cohesive power of weak ties.” as opposed to strong ties (which limits applicability to small well defined groups)
  4. Earlier work focuses on small groups, and doesn’t consider what the properties of small groups implies about the structure of large groups of people
  5. “… the strength of a tie is a (probably linear) combination of the amount of time, the emotional intensity, the intimacy (mutual confiding) and the reciprocal services which characterize each tie.”
  6. If A and B spend much time together <are strongly connected?> and B and C spend much time together, then there is a good chance that A meets C through B
  7. Because of this, they make the claim that no strong tie is a bridge (the only connection between two components) (conversely, they claim local /direct solitary bridges are only likely if all the nodes are weakly connected)
    1. Also, if both components are large, its unlikely that there would be only one connection between them
  8. Therefore, most components are fairly well-connected, if they are connected at all
  9. For this reason, the removal of weak links would probably do more to increase the average path cost than strong ties (because there is likely to be redundancies)
  10. On the other hand, there may be connectivity through components aside from one particular pair, but they also may take more indirect paths, which makes communication more difficult/costly
  11. Many previous studies on social networks (not Milgram’s) prevent the study of weak connections by strongly limiting the number of connections an individual was permitted to include
  12. Discussion of trend/”innovation” propagation, and whether they start at hubs or people that correspond to nodes on the fringe – not particularly relevant to what I’m thinking about, but their claim is that noncontroversial innovation starts at hubs, while more controversial/untraditional ones start at hubs
    1. Additionally, marginal individuals are more likely to be bridges, so often play important role in spreading new ideas
  13. Similarly, an experiment had kids list their top 8 friends at school in order.  When using only the top two friends, the number of reachable students was smaller than if 3rd and 4th best friends were used, and so on, with the largest number of people reachable when using the 7th and 8th ranked friends (because of less redundancy in the reachability graph)
  14. Following arguments made as illustration
  15. Previous studies consider how an individual’s behavior is shaped by his network, and some researchers claim differences in behavior arise when networks are close-knit (dense) or loose-knit
  16. “The fewer indirect contacts one has the more encapsulated he will be in terms of knowledge of the world beyond his own friendship circle…”
  17. Study by the author showed that people often found new jobs through weak links “It is remarkable that people receive crucial information from individuals whose very existence they have forgotten.”
  18. Advocates that metrics consist of 2 hops worth of nodes, as some things, like jobs very frequently come from just one or two hops (disease and rumors often travel longer distances)
  19. “Seen from a more macroscopic vantage, weak ties play a role in effecting social cohesion.  When a man changes jobs, he is not only moving from one network of ties to another, but also establishing a like between these.  Such a link is often of the same kind which facilitated his own movement.”
  20. For the reason of maintaining and building weak ties, things like conventions are important
  21. <Reminds me of the history of Sephardi Jews after the expulsion from Spain – communities were broken apart and members of each community were scattered all over the Mediterranean and beyond.  It was these connections, sometimes weak that gave these Jews a leg-up on competition and allowed for their success as merchants and traders.>
  22. Moves on to consider community organization – why is it that some can organize for common goals easily, while in other cases (even dangerous ones) other communities may fail to do so.
  23. If the network is made of cliques, messages cannot move between groups through personal connections and would realistically have to be done through things like leaflets, which are less convincing, and are more difficult to trust
  24. Give an example of the Italian West End in Boston, which had trouble organizing and did have social networks that were mostly cliques, so the network was very fragmented.
  25. In that society, peer groups essentially dont change over time, and the social network of most people is only that static peer group and family members
  26. Admittedly, this is speculation and would need to be examined more thoroughly to get to better answers as to whether the existence of cliques lead to the behavior
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