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In social network analysis and
mathematical sociology Mathematical sociology or the sociology of mathematics is an interdiscplinary field of research concerned both with the use of mathematics within sociological research as well as research into the relationships that exist between maths and societ ...
, interpersonal ties are defined as information-carrying connections between people. Interpersonal ties, generally, come in three varieties: ''strong'', ''weak'' or ''absent''. Weak social ties, it is argued, are responsible for the majority of the embeddedness and structure of
social networks A social networking service A social networking service or SNS (sometimes called a social networking site) is an online platform which people use to build social networks or social relation In social science, a social relation or social ...

social networks
in
society A society is a group A group is a number A number is a mathematical object used to counting, count, measurement, measure, and nominal number, label. The original examples are the natural numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and so forth. Numbers can be ...

society
as well as the transmission of
information Information is processed, organised and structured data Data (; ) are individual facts A fact is something that is truth, true. The usual test for a statement of fact is verifiability—that is whether it can be demonstrated to c ...

information
through these networks. Specifically, more novel information flows to individuals through weak rather than strong ties. Because our close friends tend to move in the same circles that we do, the information they receive overlaps considerably with what we already know. Acquaintances, by contrast, know people that we do not, and thus receive more novel information. Included in the definition of ''absent ties'', according to the American sociologist
Mark Granovetter Mark Sanford Granovetter (; born October 20, 1943) is an American sociologist and professor at Stanford University , mottoeng = "The wind of freedom blows" , type = Private university, Private research university , academic_affiliations = A ...
, are those relationships (or ties) without substantial significance, such as "nodding" relationships between people living on the same street, or the "tie", for example, to a frequent vendor one would buy from. Such relations with familiar strangers have also been called ''invisible ties'' since they are hardly observable, and are often overlooked as a relevant type of ties. They nevertheless support people's sense of familiarity and belonging. Furthermore, the fact that two people may know each other by name does not necessarily qualify the existence of a weak tie. If their interaction is negligible the tie may be ''absent'' or ''invisible''. The "strength" of an interpersonal tie is a linear combination of the amount of time, the emotional intensity, the intimacy (or mutual confiding), and the reciprocal services which characterize each tie.


History

One of the earliest writers to describe the nature of the ties between people was German scientist and philosopher,
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832) was a German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of G ...

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
. In his classic 1809 novella, ''
Elective Affinities ''Elective Affinities'' (german: Die Wahlverwandtschaften), also translated under the title ''Kindred by Choice'', is the third novel by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832) was a German poet ...
'', Goethe discussed the "marriage tie". The analogy shows how strong marriage unions are similar in character to particles of
quicksilver
quicksilver
, which find unity through the process of
chemical affinity In chemical physics Chemical physics is a subdiscipline of chemistry and physics that investigates physicochemical phenomena using techniques from atomic, molecular, and optical physics, atomic and molecular physics and condensed matter physics; ...
. In 1954, the Russian mathematical psychologist
Anatol Rapoport Anatol Rapoport ( uk, Анатолій Борисович Рапопо́рт; russian: Анато́лий Бори́сович Рапопо́рт; May 22, 1911January 20, 2007) was an American mathematical psychologist. He contributed to general ...
commented on the "well-known fact that the likely contacts of two individuals who are closely acquainted tend to be more overlapping than those of two arbitrarily selected individuals". This argument became one of the cornerstones of
social network theory A social network is a social structure In the social sciences, social structure is the patterned social arrangements in society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction ...
. In 1973, stimulated by the work of Rapoport and Harvard theorist
Harrison White Harrison Colyar White (born March 21, 1930 ) is the emeritus Giddings Professor of Sociology at Columbia University Columbia University (also known as Columbia, and officially as Columbia University in the City of New York) is a Private univ ...

Harrison White
, Mark Granovetter published ''The Strength of Weak Ties''. This paper is now recognized as one of the most influential sociology papers ever written. To obtain data for his doctoral thesis, Granovetter interviewed dozens of people to find out how social networks are used to land new jobs. Granovetter found that most jobs were found through "weak" acquaintances. This pattern reminded Granovetter of his freshman chemistry lesson that demonstrated how "weak"
hydrogen bond A hydrogen bond (or H-bond) is a primarily electrostatic Electrostatics is a branch of physics Physics is the that studies , its , its and behavior through , and the related entities of and . "Physical science is that department ...

hydrogen bond
s hold huge water molecules together, which are themselves held together by "strong"
covalent bonds A covalent bond is a chemical bond A chemical bond is a lasting attraction between atoms, ions or molecules that enables the formation of chemical compounds. The bond may result from the Coulomb's law, electrostatic force of attraction bet ...
.
In Granovetter's view, a similar combination of strong and weak bonds holds the members of
society A society is a group A group is a number A number is a mathematical object used to counting, count, measurement, measure, and nominal number, label. The original examples are the natural numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and so forth. Numbers can be ...

society
together. This model became the basis of his first manuscript on the importance of weak social ties in human life, published in May 1973. According to ''Current Contents'', by 1986, the Weak Ties paper had become a citation classic, being one of the most cited papers in sociology. In a related line of research in 1969, anthropologist
Bruce Kapferer Bruce Kapferer (born 1940 in Sydney) is an Australian anthropologist. Biography Kapferer studied at the University of Sydney and later for the PhD at the University of Manchester. His early fieldwork was in Zambia where he researched among the ...

Bruce Kapferer
, published "Norms and the Manipulation of Relationships in a Work Context" after doing field work in Africa. In the document, he postulated the existence of ''multiplex ties'', characterized by multiple contexts in a relationship. In
telecommunication Telecommunication is the transmission of information by various types of technologies over wire A wire is a single usually cylindrical A cylinder (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Gr ...
s, a
multiplexer In electronics The field of electronics is a branch of physics and electrical engineering that deals with the emission, behaviour and effects of electrons The electron is a subatomic particle In physical sciences, subatomic parti ...

multiplexer
is a device that allows a transmission medium to carry a number of separate signals. In social relations, by extrapolation, "multiplexity" is the overlap of roles, exchanges, or affiliations in a social relationship.


Research data

In 1970, Granovetter submitted his doctoral dissertation to
Harvard University Harvard University is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty Springfield, after an absence of nearly t ...

Harvard University
, entitled "Changing Jobs: Channels of Mobility Information in a Suburban Community". The thesis of his dissertation illustrated the conception of weak ties. For his research, Dr. Granovetter crossed the Charles River to Newton, Massachusetts where he surveyed 282 professional, technical, and managerial workers in total. 100 were personally interviewed, in regards to the type of ties between the job changer and the contact person who provided the necessary information. Tie strength was measured in terms of how often they saw the contact person during the period of the job transition, using the following assignment: *often = at least once a week *occasionally = more than once a year but less than twice a week *rarely = once a year or less Of those who found jobs through personal contacts (N=54), 16.7% reported seeing their contact often, 55.6% reported seeing their contact occasionally, and 27.8% rarely. When asked whether a friend had told them about their current job, the most frequent answer was "not a friend, an acquaintance". The conclusion from this study is that weak ties are an important resource in occupational mobility. When seen from a macro point of view, weak ties play a role in affecting social cohesion.


Social networks

In
social network theory A social network is a social structure In the social sciences, social structure is the patterned social arrangements in society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction ...
, social relationships are viewed in terms of ''nodes'' and ''ties''. Nodes are the individual actors within the networks, and ties are the relationships between the actors. There can be many kinds of ties between the nodes. In its simplest form, a social network is a map of all of the relevant ties between the nodes being studied.


Weak tie hypothesis

The "weak tie hypothesis" argues, using a combination of
probability Probability is the branch of mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers (arithmetic and number theory), formulas and related structures (algebra), shapes and spaces in which they are contained ...

probability
and
mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers (arithmetic and number theory), formulas and related structures (algebra), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (geometry), and quantities and their changes (cal ...
, as originally stated by
Anatol Rapoport Anatol Rapoport ( uk, Анатолій Борисович Рапопо́рт; russian: Анато́лий Бори́сович Рапопо́рт; May 22, 1911January 20, 2007) was an American mathematical psychologist. He contributed to general ...
in 1957, that if A is linked to both B and C, then there is a greater-than-chance probability that B and C are linked to each other:
That is, if we consider any two randomly selected individuals, such as A and B, from the set S = A, B, C, D, E, ..., of all persons with ties to either or both of them, then, for example, if A is strongly tied to both B and C, then according to probability arguments, the B-C tie is always present. The absence of the B-C tie, in this situation, would create, according to Granovetter, what is called the ''forbidden triad''. In other words, the B-C tie, according to this logic, is always present, whether weak or strong, given the other two strong ties. In this direction, the "weak tie hypothesis" postulates that clumps or
clique A clique ( AusE, CanE Cane or caning may refer to: *Walking stick or walking cane, a device used primarily to aid walking *Assistive cane, a walking stick used as a mobility aid for better balance *White cane, a mobility or safety device used b ...
s of social structure will form, being bound predominately by "strong ties", and that "weak ties" will function as the crucial bridge between any two densely knit clumps of close friends. It may follow that individuals with few bridging weak ties will be deprived of information from distant parts of the
social system In sociology, social system is the patterned network of relationships constituting a coherent whole that exist between individuals, groups, and institutions. It is the formal Social structure, structure of role and status that can form in a small ...
and will be confined to the provincial news and views of their close friends. However, having a large number of weak ties can mean that novel information is effectively "swamped" among a high volume of information, even crowding out strong ties. The arrangement of links in a network may matter as well as the number of links. Further research is needed to examine the ways in which types of information, numbers of ties, quality of ties, and trust levels interact to affect the spreading of information.


Strong ties hypothesis

According to David Krackhardt, there are some problems in the Granovetter definition. The first one refers to the fact that the Granovetter definition of the strength of a tie is a curvilinear prediction and his question is "how do we know where we are on this theoretical curve?". The second one refers to the affective character of strong ties. Krackhardt says that there are subjective criteria in the definition of the strength of a tie such as emotional intensity and the intimacy. He thought that strong ties are very important in severe changes and uncertainty: He called this particular type of strong tie ''philo'' and define ''philos'' relationship as one that meets the following three necessary and sufficient conditions: # ''Interaction'': For A and B to be ''philos'', A and B must interact with each other. # ''Affection'': For A and B to be ''philos'', A must feel affection for B. # ''Time'': A and B, to be ''philos'', must have a history of interactions with each other that have lasted over an extended period of time. The combination of these qualities predicts trust and predicts that strong ties will be the critical ones in generating trust and discouraging malfeasance. When it comes to major change, change that may threaten the status quo in terms of power and the standard routines of how decisions are made, then trust is required. Thus, change is the product of ''philos''.


Positive ties and negative ties

Starting in the late 1940s,
Anatol Rapoport Anatol Rapoport ( uk, Анатолій Борисович Рапопо́рт; russian: Анато́лий Бори́сович Рапопо́рт; May 22, 1911January 20, 2007) was an American mathematical psychologist. He contributed to general ...
and others developed a probabilistic approach to the characterization of large social networks in which the nodes are persons and the links are acquaintanceship. During these years, formulas were derived that connected local parameters such as closure of contacts, and the supposed existence of the B-C tie to the global network property of connectivity. Moreover, acquaintanceship (in most cases) is a positive tie. However, there are also negative ties such as animosity among persons. In considering the relationships of three,
Fritz Heider Fritz Heider (19 February 1896 – 2 January 1988) was an Austrian psychologist A psychologist is a professional who practices psychology and studies normal and abnormal mental states, perceptual, cognitive, emotional, and social processes an ...
initiated a
balance theoryIn the psychology Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of consciousness, conscious and Unconscious mind, unconscious phenomena, as well as feeling and thought. It is an academic discipline of immense s ...
of relations. In a larger network represented by a
graph Graph may refer to: Mathematics *Graph (discrete mathematics), a structure made of vertices and edges **Graph theory, the study of such graphs and their properties *Graph (topology), a topological space resembling a graph in the sense of discret ...
, the totality of relations is represented by a
signed graph In the area of graph theory In mathematics, graph theory is the study of ''graph (discrete mathematics), graphs'', which are mathematical structures used to model pairwise relations between objects. A graph in this context is made up of ''Vertex ...
. This effort led to an important and non-obvious Structure Theorem for signed graphs, which was published by
Frank Harary Frank Harary (March 11, 1921 – January 4, 2005) was an American mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers ( and ), ...
in 1953. A signed graph is called ''balanced'' if the product of the signs of all relations in every
cycle Cycle or cyclic may refer to: Anthropology and social sciences * Cyclic history, a theory of history * Cyclical theory, a theory of American political history associated with Arthur Schlesinger, Sr. * Social cycle, various cycles in social scienc ...
is positive. A signed graph is unbalanced if the product is ever negative. The theorem says that if a network of interrelated positive and negative ties is balanced, then it consists of two subnetworks such that each has positive ties among its nodes and negative ties between nodes in distinct subnetworks. In other words, "my friend's enemy is my enemy". The imagery here is of a social system that splits into two
clique A clique ( AusE, CanE Cane or caning may refer to: *Walking stick or walking cane, a device used primarily to aid walking *Assistive cane, a walking stick used as a mobility aid for better balance *White cane, a mobility or safety device used b ...
s. There is, however, a special case where one of the two subnetworks may be empty, which might occur in very small networks. In these two developments, we have mathematical models bearing upon the analysis of the structure. Other early influential developments in mathematical sociology pertained to process. For instance, in 1952 Herbert A. Simon produced a mathematical formalization of a published theory of social groups by constructing a model consisting of a deterministic system of differential equations. A formal study of the system led to theorems about the dynamics and the implied
equilibrium state Thermodynamic equilibrium is an axiomatic An axiom, postulate or assumption is a statement that is taken to be true True most commonly refers to truth Truth is the property of being in accord with fact or reality.Merriam-Webster's Onlin ...
s of any group.


Absent or invisible ties

In a footnote,
Mark Granovetter Mark Sanford Granovetter (; born October 20, 1943) is an American sociologist and professor at Stanford University , mottoeng = "The wind of freedom blows" , type = Private university, Private research university , academic_affiliations = A ...
defines what he considers as absent ties: The concept of ''invisible tie'' was proposed to overcome the contradiction between the adjective "absent" and this definition, which suggests that such ties exist and might "usefully be distinguished" from the absence of ties. From this perspective, the relationship between two
familiar strangers ''Familiar Strangers'' (formerly known as ''Pretzels & Pills'') is a 2008 film about an American family going through the process of negotiating the changing relationships between parents and children, especially as those children grow into adulthoo ...
, such as two people living on the same street, is not absent but invisible. Indeed, because such ties involve only limited interaction (as in the case of 'nodding relationships'), if any, they are hardly observable, and are often overlooked as a relevant type of ties. Absent or invisible ties nevertheless support people's sense of familiarity and belonging.


Latent tie

Adding any network-based means of communication such as a new
IRC Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is a text-based chat (instant messaging Instant messaging (IM) technology is a type of online chat Online chat may refer to any kind of communication over the Internet that offers a real-time text, real-time t ...

IRC
channel, a social support group, a Webboard lays the groundwork for connectivity between formerly unconnected others. Similarly, laying an infrastructure, such as the Internet,
intranets An intranet is a computer network for sharing information, collaboration tools, operational systems, and other computing services within an organization, usually to the exclusion of access by outsiders. The term is used in contrast to public netwo ...
, , grid computing, telephone lines, cellular service, or neighborhood networks, when combined with the devices that access them (phones, cellphones, computers, etc.) makes it possible for social networks to form. Such infrastructures make a connection available technically, even if not yet activated socially. These technical connections support latent social network ties, used here to indicate ties that are technically possible but not yet activated socially. They are only activated, i.e. converted from latent to weak, by some sort of social interaction between members, e.g. by telephoning someone, attending a group-wide meeting, reading and contributing to a Webboard, emailing others, etc. Given that such connectivity involves unrelated persons, the latent tie structure must be established by an authority beyond the persons concerned. Internet-based social support sites contain this profile. These are started by individuals with a particular interest in a subject who may begin by posting information and providing the means for online discussion.


The individualistic perspective

Granovetter's 1973 work proved to be crucial in the individualistic approach of the social network theory as seen by the number of references in other papers. His argument asserts that weak ties or "acquaintances", are less likely to be involved within the social network than strong ties (close friends and family). By not going further in the strong ties, but focusing on the weak ties, Granovetter highlights the importance of acquaintances in social networks. He argues, that the only thing that can connect two social networks with strong ties is a weak tie: "… these clumps / trong ties networkswould not, in fact, be connected to one another at all were it not for the existence of weak ties. It follows that in an all-covering social network individuals are at a disadvantage with only a few weak links, compared to individuals with multiple weak links, as they are disconnected with the other parts of the network. Another interesting observation that Granovetter makes in his work is the increasing specialization of individuals creates the necessity for weak ties, as all the other specialist information and knowledge is present in large social networks consisting predominately of weak ties. Cross et al., (2001) confirm this by presenting six features which differentiate effective and ineffective knowledge sharing relations: "1)knowing what other person knows and thus when to turn to them; 2) being able to gain timely access to that person; 3) willingness of the person sought out to engage in the problem solving rather than dump information; 4) a degree of safety in the relationship that promoted learning and creativity; 5) the factors put by
Geert Hofstede Gerard Hendrik (Geert) Hofstede (2 October 1928 – 12 February 2020) was a Dutch social psychologist Social psychology is the scientific study of how the thoughts, feelings, and behavior Behavior (American English) or behaviour ...
; and 6) individual characteristics, such as openness" (pp 5). This fits in nicely with Granovetter's argument that "Weak ties provide people with access to information and resources beyond those available in their own social circle; but strong ties have greater motivation to be of assistance and are typically more easily available." This weak/strong ties paradox is elaborated by myriad authors. The extent in which individuals are connected to others is called centrality. Sparrowe & Linden (1997) argue how the position of a person in a social network confer advantages such organizational assimilation, and job performance (Sparrowe et al., 2001); Burt (1992) expects it to result in promotions, Brass (1984) affiliates centrality with power and Friedkin (1993) with influence in decision power. Other authors, such as Krackhardt and Porter (1986) contemplate the disadvantages of the position is social networks such as organizational exit (see also Sparrowe et al., 2001) and Wellman et al.,(1988) introduce the use of social networks for emotional and material support. Blau and Fingerman, drawing from these and other studies, refer to weak ties as ''
consequential strangers Consequential strangers are personal connections other than family and close friends. Also known as "peripheral" or "weak" ties, they lie in the broad social territory between strangers and intimates. The term was coined by Karen L. Fingerman and fu ...
,'' positing that they provide some of the same benefits as intimates as well as many distinct and complementary functions.


Recent views

In the early 1990s, American social economist James D. Montgomery contributed to economic theories of network structures in labor market. In 1991, Montgomery incorporated network structures in an adverse selection model to analyze the effects of social networks on
labor market Labour economics seeks to understand the functioning and dynamics of the markets Market may refer to: *Market (economics) *Market economy *Marketplace, a physical marketplace or public market Geography *Märket, an island shared by Finlan ...
outcomes. In 1992, Montgomery explored the role of "weak ties", which he defined as non-frequent and transitory social relations, in labor market. He demonstrates that weak ties are positively related to higher wages and higher aggregate employment rates.


See also

*
Dependent origination A dependant (Commonwealth English) or dependent (American English) is a person who relies on another as a primary source of income. A common-law spouse who is financially supported by their partner may also be included in this definition. I ...
*
Human bonding Human bonding is the process of development of a close, interpersonal relationship The concept of interpersonal relationship involves social associations, connections, or affiliations between two or more people. Interpersonal relationship ...
*
Six degrees of separation #REDIRECT Six degrees of separation#REDIRECT Six degrees of separation Six degrees of separation is the idea that all people on average are six, or fewer, social connections away from each other. As a result, a chain of " a friend of a friend" st ...

Six degrees of separation
* Bridge (interpersonal) * Simmelian tie *
Social connection Social connection is the experience of feeling close and connected to others. It involves feeling love Love encompasses a range of strong and positive emotion Emotions are mental state, psychological states brought on by neurophysiolo ...


References


External links

{{Commons category
Caves, Clusters, and Weak Ties: The Six Degrees World of Inventors
– Harvard Business School, November 28, 2004
The Weakening of Strong Ties
– Ross Mayfield, September 15, 2003

Interpersonal relationships