January 30, 2013

How to be a social climber

A study reveals the mechanisms of  “opportunist” societies

“He landed the job because he has connections.” How many times you have heard these words?
Now a study confirms what is apparently only a stereotype.

The research, published in the Journal of Statistical Physics, which also involves the
International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) of Trieste, is entitled, quite eloquently, “The
Social Climbing Game”.

The researchers have carried out a social network simulation: each individual is represented by a
node, while links, connecting the nodes, represent social interactions. Each individual has the
tendency to enhance their social importance, and to do so they necessarily have to connect with
the “most central nodes”, that is, to the people who count. However, to advance socially an
individual has to break with the past: technically speaking, abandon old nodes and connect with
the most central ones. But how many have an inclination to break up with old connections to aim
high? In other words, how many opportunist individuals are there within a society?