We succeed or fail with help from our friends

Human networks can have a big impact on whether we get ahead in life, but they can have the opposite effect too.
friends posing for photo (human networks concept)

To understand why people succeed or fail, look at their circle of friends. Like it or not, says economist Matthew Jackson, people’s fates are closely connected to their human networks.

While human networks can be beneficial—a friend can be a referral to a lucrative new job, for example—there can be negative effects as well: What happens when someone doesn’t know influential people? A limited human network, Jackson says, can hinder opportunities with deleterious effects in society. It helps explain why social immobility and inequality exist today.

The deep connections that people nurture underlie important political and economic establishments as well, Jackson says. For example, financial markets have become so intertwined—with central players larger than ever—that when Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008, it triggered a recession worldwide. One risky financial move is all it takes to spread financial distress across the network.

Jackson, a professor of economics at Stanford University, has researched the powerful effects of networks for more than 25 years. He’s collected his findings in a new book, The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviors.

Here, Jackson talks about how human networks can explain many important phenomena, from financial crises to disparities across groups, consequences of school segregation, social immobility, and more.

The post We succeed or fail with help from our friends appeared first on Futurity.

More from Futurity

Futurity3 min readScience
Team Cracks Mystery Of Missing Jumbo Squid
Shifting weather patterns and ocean conditions are among the reasons for the collapse of a once lucrative jumbo squid fishery in Mexico. The culprit responsible for the decline of the jumbo squid fishery has remained a mystery, until now. The new fin
Futurity3 min readScience
‘Metronome’ Neurons Set The Beat For Rodent Brains
A newly discovered type of cell in the brain keeps time so regularly that it may serve as the brain’s long-hypothesized clock or metronome, report researchers. The researchers measured the fast electrical spikes of individual neurons in the touch reg
Futurity6 min read
Fake Resumes Root Out Real Hiring Bias
A new way to study hiring called incentivized resume rating has uncovered evidence of how bias seeps into the hiring process of some of the world’s top firms. Research has shown how easy it is for an employer’s conscious and unconscious biases to cre