In honor of the INFORMS OR blog challenge on social networking, I wanted to bring the Small World Experiment to your attention. If you haven’t heard of this before, Six degrees of Kevin Bacon is a real phenomenon based on a scientific experiment (although it was based on the average degree, not the maximum degree).I first heard about this at a conference and almost fell out of my seat.
In 1967, the sociologist Stanley Milgram carried out an experiment to see how people in a large social group are linked together. His hypothesis being that we are all connected by a simple series of connections. To test this theory Milgram posted small packets to a 60 individuals in Kansas with instructions to try and pass these packages to a target person in Boston. The one rule being that people could only pass the packages to someone they were on personal first-name terms with. To assist they were given a series of clues about the target to help inform their choice. His results formed the basis for his famous theory of “six degrees of separation”.