People who’re popular or who wish to be a wallflower may have their genes to thank, says a new research. Researchers from Harvard University and the University of California, San Diego have found that individuals’ place in a social network is influenced in part by their genes.
The study has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research was conducted by Nicholas Christakis of Harvard, who is professor of sociology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and professor of medical sociology at Harvard Medical School, Christopher Dawes and James Fowler, both of UC San Diego.
"We were able to show that our particular location in vast social networks has a genetic basis," says Christakis. "In fact, the beautiful and complicated pattern of human connection depends on our genes to a significant measure,” the researcher added.
The researchers found that popularity, or the number of times an individual was named as a friend, and the likelihood that those friends know one another, were both strongly heritable. Additionally, location within the network, or the tendency to be at the center or on the edges of the group, was also genetically linked.
However, the researchers were surprised to learn that the number of people named as a friend by an individual did not appear to be inherited. The study included national data (from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health) for the social networks of 1,110 adolescent twins, both fraternal and identical.
The researchers compared the social networks of the identical twins to those of the fraternal twins, and found greater similarity between the identical twins' social network structure than the fraternal twins'' networks.