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The Surprising Power of Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives

Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler

Competition for mates can be stressful. A man who is surrounded by other men has to work harder to find a mate, and this has long term consequences for his health. The higher the male-female ration when a man is in his 20's, the shorter his life.

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Women rate men higher if they are with attractive woman or women (but not a plain one), or if described as married. And when they are in most fertile stage of repro cycle, they have a relative preference for men who are already attached. Men are the opposite - a woman surrounded by men becomes less attractive, probably because of extra effort required to get her.

Can understand increasing acceptability of homosexuality in terms of social networks. SF activist Harvey Milk pushed fellow gays to come out of the closet to family and friends, and so an increasing number of people became aware of gays in their network who were non-threatening, and so more gays were encouraged to come out, and so on. But same process also works for discrimination in that you accept attitudes of your peers.

Widowed men - spike in death rate immediately after wife dies (then reverts to mean) whereas not same with widowed wives. Perhaps when men die, the things they bring to marriage still there - house and income. But when wife dies, man loses emotional support and well run home. But for some reason, the effect doesn't apply if wife is black (and husband is either black or white)

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Group of very young girls in an upper middle class suburb just outside Atlanta started arriving at clinics with STDs. Turned out that some very active girls - 14 yo's who's had 50 sex partners; 6th graders competing for favors of high school boys. Parents in total denial. "One woman cussed e out and said she knew her child was a virgin, until I said no, her child was pregnant."

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