Facebook Researchers Say It’s 4.74 Degrees of Separation, Not Six

Facebook teamed up with the Università degli Studi di Milano to revisit Stanley Milgram’s 1967 experiment concerning the number of social connections separating any two people. The results from the new investigation point to there being a separation of 4.74 degrees between individuals instead of six. The Italian and American team’s conclusions were published Monday on Facebook. The two research papers can be read at: http://arxiv.org/abs/1111.4503 and http://arxiv.org/abs/1111.4570.

During the original Milgram experiment, data obtained from a mere 296 volunteers was used. By comparison, Facebook and U. degli Studi di Milano looked at data from all 721 million of Facebook’s users. As everyone is mentioning, that number is more than one-tenth of the entire world’s population.

The notion of “six degrees of separation,” has had a long history. It first appeared in 1929 in the Hungarian short story “Chains,” by Frigyes Karinthy. More recently, the idea was popularized in United States by the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, in which players attempt to connect anyone within the movie industry to the Footloose actor. The premise is that anyone can be connected to Bacon within six degrees.

Via Twitter, Bacon himself agreed with those opining that the new figure lacks the sonorous ring of the old one.     

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