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Is a small world getting even smaller?

In 1967 Stanley Milgram, an American social psychologist, conducted a series of experiments to study the nature of “small world” – a phenomenon produced by the overlap of personal social networks. For instance, he tried to find out the average path length for social networks of people in the US. He sent out 160 packages to randomly selected individuals in Kansas and asked them to deliver the package to a person living in Boston, Massachusetts. Since the senders didn’t know the package recipient personally, they were allowed to forward the package to somebody they knew on a first-name basis and who were likely to know the final recipient. The first package reached the recipient in Boston via only two people. However, on average the delivery chain consisted of 5 people. That’s how the theory of “6 degrees of separation” appeared. It suggests that anyone is 6 or fewer steps away from any other person in the world.

One possible path of a message in the “Small World” experiment by Stanley Milgram in 1967. Image credits: Ageev Andrew

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