Businessweek Archives

Duncan Watts on Friendship: II


Ever try the Yahoo’s Facebook ap, Friend Sense? It’s tool developed by Duncan Watt’s Human Social Dynamic Group. The idea is to see if we understand our friends as well as we think we do.

If you go through your friends on Facebook, could you divide the ones who are for and against capital punishment? Who like chocolate?

The research, Watts says, shows that people think their friends agree with them more than they do. In other words, we project our values onto others. Or perhaps as a society we soft pedal our differences to maintain a friendly vibe.

I told him he should analyze this country by country. In my experience, living in France and the United States, many Americans tend to pretend they agree early on, and then try to insert their different point of view as the discussion continues. (Yeah, I agree, but actually there are a couple of points…) My French friends, by contrast, will seize upon one detail of difference in the beginning, and then work toward consensus. (Non, non, non… Of course, you are right about this aspect…)

Since I don’t want to engage too much in crude national generalizations, I would like Watts to extend his research and prove me out. (As a good American, I’ll smile and pretend I agree with his results.)


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