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Small World Phenomenon

"Six degrees of separation" is the well-known slogan of the Small World Phenomenon. The term was coined in connection to an experiment Stanley Milgram conducted in 1967 at Harvard University. Milgram had "the desire to learn more about the probability that two randomly selected people would know each other." (Quote: Wikipedia).

Stanley Milgram The first Small World Experiment was conducted by Milgram in 1967 via post. 60 randomly selected participants should send a package to a target person. When the test person didn't know the target person personally, he should send the package to a person he knew personally and who had a greater possibility to know the target person.

The result was that three packages reached the target person with an average of 5,5 contacts (rounded up to six). "Hence, the researchers concluded that people in the United States are separated by about six people on average. And, although Milgram himself never used the phrase "six degrees of separation", these findings likely contributed to its widespread acceptance." (Quote: Wikipedia)

Although the results were highly controversial because of the low success rate, similar experiments werde conducted with success rates of up to 85%. In 2003, a global experiment was conducted. In this experiment, 60,000 email users from 166 countries tried to reach 18 chosen target persons in 13 states by forwarding electronic messages.

The scientists confirmed Milgrams results from 1967, that most likely no more than six contacts are needed to reach every person in the world.

 

 

This theory is proved by online social networks such as Facebook or LinkedIn, where connections paths are shown between the persons. Normally, these have no more than five links.





 

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