The Small World Experiment

Once, I asked myself: “How small is the world?” Before I came up with an answer, I thought “Why not ask how ‘big’ is the world?” Maybe it depends on what manner you measure the world.

In The Tipping Point, it mentioned the idea of six degrees of separation. This concept was defined in Wikipedia and it states that everyone is on average approximately six steps away from any other person on Earth, so that a chain of, “a friend of a friend” statements can be made, on average, to connect any two people in six steps or fewer. 

To explain the six steps, one step or degree would mean your friend whom you have known firsthand and personally. The second step would be a friend whom you have known through a common friend, whom you have known firsthand and personally; or a friend of a friend. Then the third step would be a friend of a friend of a friend, and so on until you reach the six steps.

The Tipping Point was written by Malcolm Gladwell, a best-selling author of books such as Blink, and Outliers. 

The Tipping Point

In the book, it mentioned the study of Stanley Milgram about his study called the small world experiment. In the study, they tracked chains of acquaintances in the United States by sending several packages to 160 random people living in Omaha, Nebraska, and asking them to forward the package to a friend or acquaintance who they thought would bring the package closer to a set final individual, a stockbroker from Boston, Massachusetts. It has been concluded that people in the United States are separated by about six people on average.

Six Degrees of Separation

4 thoughts on “The Small World Experiment

  1. Amazing concept, isn’t it?
    I wonder how people get time to research such abstract topics..n y does a university agree to these 🙂

    Allen: Researchers really find time to find this kind of study. Abstract topics are interesting topics maybe that’s why universities agree to this and even sponsor the researcher. 🙂

  2. Is this similar to the so called Butterfly Effect ?

    Allen: Not similar but somehow related. They call it as six degrees of separation, though the researcher didn’t use that term. Butterfly effect. It just shows how to reach anyone in this world. The number of steps might explain how butterfly effect happens.

  3. hello, allen,

    here in the Phils., once i tried that (before the advent of facebook). i listed some of my friends, haha, and tried the 6th degrees of separation. i found out that most in the list aren’t even six degrees away from each other but 4 to 5 only. for those living the city, usually, 3 degrees away only.

    haha, we’re all relatives somehow. one way or the other, we could be friends or enemies. cheers! 🙂

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