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The research was conducted in collaboration with Facebook, and all users who registered for accounts during the entire year of 2010 were subjects in the study.

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Biological contagion is a great model for processes that spread according to physical principles. Viruses can be very accurately modelled as spreading through random human interactions. The same goes for rumors or other sorts of information diffusion. But when people are making actual decisions, that decision process can be a lot more complicated than just random interaction.

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Counting “distinct social groups” is an interesting challenge. How do you decide what counts as a “group”?

As part of the study, we looked at many different techniques for identifying “groups”, and found that our thesis — more diversity means more adoption — was true essentially no matter how we measured groups.

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Harnessing these new understandings of how people make social decisions can greatly improve the spread of public health programs — from dieting practices to condom usage — contexts where increased ‘virality’ can clearly be a force for good.

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