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Cosmos Magazine: Under the (social) influence: Behavioural change comes from the periphery of society – not from influencers

From Cosmos Magazine: The modern-day influence economy would have us believe that the best way to sell a product – or an idea – is to have an influencer, at the centre of a network of social connections, promote it for you. But new research from the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), published today in Nature Communications, suggests the best way to spread a message or idea is to launch it in the periphery of a social network, among less prominent figures. “When social influencers present ideas that are dissonant with their followers’ world views – say, for example, that vaccination is safe and effective – they can unintentionally antagonise the people they are seeking to persuade because people typically only follow influencers whose ideas confirm their beliefs about the world,” says Damon Centola, professor of communication, sociology, and engineering at Penn, and senior author on the paper. Despite having a predicted value of around US$13.8 billion in 2021, the global influencer economy may therefore not be the strongest agent for behavioural change. Instead, the authors argue that the most powerful way to plant new ideas is to target people or groups in the outer fringes of a network. Read the full story in Cosmos Magazine.

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