The Floating University

Video Quiz

Take this quiz to test your knowledge of Professor Christakis' sociology lecture. Find the answer key at the bottom, as well as an additional quiz on the assigned reading!

(1.) All of the following are examples supra-individual factors that affect people’s lives EXCEPT:

  • (A.) A young adult lives in a religious community where the vast majority of his peers get married after high school rather than attend college.
  • (B.) Children in a particular neighborhood attend a school that is across the street from a coal plant.
  • (C.) A family lives on an isolated rural farm that is two hours away from the closest hospital.
  • (D.) A woman is married to a man who refuses to use birth control, and as a result their family has five children.

(2.) Which of the following factors makes the strongest argument for the sociological dimension of suicide?

  • (A.) A person’s suicide note leaves explicit instructions for how that person wishes to cremated and scattered on a favorite lake.
  • (B.) A person who jumps off of a building to take his own life waits until late in the evening to decrease the chance that he lands on someone and causes them grievous physical harm.
  • (C.) In order to commit suicide, a person must seek out black market connections to purchase a large amount of illegal narcotics that will cause her to die upon overdose.
  • (D.) A person with terminal cancer chooses to hang himself rather than accrue many thousands of dollars in medical bills that would be passed on to his surviving family.

(3.) All of the following would likely be effective structural constraints to suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge EXCEPT:

  • (A.) Hiring social workers to patrol the pedestrian pathway and engage with people who appear distressed or unstable.
  • (B.) Installing a barrier along the pedestrian pathway that would make it far more difficult to jump over the edge.
  • (C.) Posting signs along the pedestrian pathway that describe the amount every suicide costs taxpayers, and emphasize the emotional damage that suicide wreaks on families.
  • (D.) Posting signs along the pedestrian pathway that emphasize the immorality and irrationality of suicide and encourage suicidal people to make ethical and rational choices.

(4.) Which statement best describes the difference between a natural network and an artificial network?

  • (A.) An artificial network utilizes the benefits of network structure for a concrete, practical purpose, such as putting out a fire, while natural networks are created by the family circumstances into which an individual is born.
  • (B.) An artificial network utilizes the benefits of network structure for a concrete, practical purpose, such as putting out a fire, while a natural network extends organically from an individual’s social connections.
  • (C.) An artificial network is derived from voluntary social connections between individuals, while natural networks are created by the family circumstances into which an individual is born.
  • (D.) An artificial network is derived from non-voluntary social connections between co-workers or classmates, for example, while natural social networks are created by family circumstances and voluntary social connections.

(5.) According to Nicholas Christakis, why didn’t his team observe an epidemic wave in its time-lapse obesity visualization?

  • (A.) Viral and bacterial epidemics can be plotted as waves using social network visualizations because the infections move relatively quickly; obesity, on the other hand, develops slowly over the course of years and decades, making it almost impossible to trace as a disease vector.
  • (B.) Unlike a viral or bacterial epidemic, which starts in one person or group and then spreads geometrically, the obesity epidemic started from many points on the outside of a network and then titrated down to a core group.
  • (C.) Christakis’ team did not see an epidemic wave because the term “obesity epidemic” is only metaphorical; based on their research, they realized the rise in obesity can be explained purely by national structural factors, like lower food prices and an economic shift toward sedentary jobs.
  • (D.) Unlike a viral or bacterial epidemic, which starts in one person or group and then spreads geometrically, obesity was spreading across networks from many different points at the same time.

(6.) All of the following are potential sociological mechanisms for obesity contagion EXCEPT:

  • (A.) Simple social influence: your friends start regularly eating high-calorie foods, so you adapt your behavior to match theirs, and everyone gains weight.
  • (B.) The appearance of normality changes: when many people in your social network gain weight, it alters your perception of acceptable behavior, and thus you start eating less healthily, gaining weight along with your friends and peers.
  • (C.) Supra-individual factors change: when the people in your social network become obese, businesses in your area cater to their changing preferences, and it becomes logistically more difficult for you to make healthy choices, making you gain weight from structural constraints.
  • (D.) Literal infection: a now-common virus that affects human physiology and slows down your metabolism spreads from person to person through heavy physical contact, not unlike a slow-moving STD, and the afflicted social networks gain weight steadily as a result.

(7.) According to Christakis, which of the following could be perceived as an advantage of having a position of high centrality within a social network?

  • (A.) Desirable information, like a job opening, or a piece of juicy gossip, has to work its way through various layers of people with less centrality before it becomes know to a person with high centrality, at which point the information has depleted utility.
  • (B.) In the case of an epidemic, a person with high centrality in a social network will benefit from a barricading effect, where the contagion has to work its way through various layers of people with less centrality before it becomes a danger.
  • (C.) Desirable information, like a job opening, or a piece of juicy gossip, will be encountered quickly by a person with high centrality, when it will have greater utility.
  • (D.) When searching for a romantic partner, a person with high degree of centrality will have many avenues and secondary social ties to explore to meet a mate, whereas a person with low centrality has fewer choices.

(8.) Which of the following descriptions best demonstrates the sociological properties of network structure and emergence?

  • (A.) A team of sentries stationed around a walled city on the lookout for enemy troops send regular signals to a central authority to prevent a surprise attack.
  • (B.) Three people have fallen into a steep pit, but by climbing on each other’s shoulders one of them is able to make it to the top and seek external help for the remaining two.
  • (C.) Fans of a sports team fill up a stadium during a championship game, and are collectively able to generate a deafening roar that intimidates the opposing team.
  • (D.) A mother brings her three children to a grocery store, and splits her shopping list among them, allowing her to finish the chore with greater speed.

(9.) Considering the concepts of human and social capital, an office manager could improve the performance of his division in all of the following ways EXCEPT:

  • (A.) Holding an office retreat in which workers who normally do not interact are encouraged to develop social ties.
  • (B.) Merging two or more physically isolated departments into the same space and removing cubicle walls that separate desks.
  • (C.) Sponsoring a handful of promising employees to take business classes at a local university.
  • (D.) Offering large financial bonuses to the employees in each department who most increase their productivity in comparison to their peers.

(10.) Which of the following statements about online social networking technology would Nicholas Christakis most likely agree with?

  • (A.) Online social networks like Facebook are quickly transforming the science of sociology, as the number of social connections held by an individual explodes upward and fundamentally alters the nature of social network structure.
  • (B.) Online social networks like Facebook do not alter the quantity of an individual’s genuine social connections, but they can greatly affect network structure and thus group properties.
  • (C.) Online social networks like Facebook can lead to novel connections, but do not alter the fundamental nature of social interactions.
  • (D.) Online social networks like Facebook are creating the illusion of genuine social ties online, to the detriment of real-life face-to-face social networks, leading to increasingly impoverished social systems and a drain on social capital.

Answer Key: (1.) C, (2.) A, (3.) B, (4.) B, (5.) D, (6.) A, (7.) C, (8.) D, (9.) A, (10.) C

Reading Quiz

This quiz is based on:

Book (must purchase): N.A. Christakis and J.H. Fowler, Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, New York: Little Brown, 1999. (Chapters 1–4 & 7–9)

(1.) Which of the following statements is not an explanation for why social influence only extends to three degrees of network separation?

  • (A.) Social networks are constantly changing shape as ties are forged and severed, and by the time information has moved three degrees away from the source the network may not be stable enough to provide a connection back.
  • (B.) The accuracy of information becomes dilute as it spreads through a social network, and after three transmissions there is no longer certainty about the truth or relevancy of information.
  • (C.) Humans evolved to live in small groups that did not allow for social connections to extend beyond three degrees of separation, so it is likely that we are not biologically adapted to spread information beyond that point.
  • (D.) The average person has about six strong social ties, and the odds of information about yourself transmitting across a network decrease at every separation; based on these odds it is probable that information you originate will pass to a second degree and vanishingly unlikely that it will continue to a fourth degree.

(2.) All of the following are potential sociological explanations for why widowed men experience an increased risk of death following the death of their spouses EXCEPT:

  • (A.) There is a causal relation between the death of a spouse and the early death of a widow or widower; without a constant partner to monitor health and nutrition, the surviving spouse is more likely to engage in activity that increases the risk of death.
  • (B.) Married couples generally share the same environment, and could both be exposed to toxins or physical accidents that greatly affect the mortality of both, even if they don’t die at the same time.
  • (C.) Because people tend to marry people that they are similar to, unhealthy people are more likely to marry unhealthy people, and the likelihood of one dying in proximity to the other is higher than average given underlying poor health.
  • (D.) Many married couples who are truly in love when one dies leave the survivor with a “broken heart” that is not detectable via standard medical analyses, but nonetheless is widely reported and could very well be physically present in the emotional centers of the brain.

(3.) Which of the following sociological interventions would produce the best public health result?

  • (A.) After a teenager commits suicide, a team of social workers quickly interviews his associates to determine who his six closest friends were; the team meets with these friends, provides counseling and support, and does the same for the six closest friends of each of the suicide victim’s six friends.
  • (B.) After an STD outbreak at a small high school, the administration schedules mandatory interviews between every student and a team of public health officials who will advocate safe sex and promise anonymity to interviewees when discussing sexual behavior and sexual partners.
  • (C.) Though smoking rates in a particular city have dropped to 20% of the adult population, further improvements in the smoking rate have stalled; the city council passes an ordinance that bans smoking on public sidewalks, except for within specially roped off smoking areas.
  • (D.) An anti-obesity campaign targets obese married couples and encourages them to eat better and exercise more with the hope that the example of married couples losing weight together will provide a model for the rest of the community.

(4.) Which of the following results is most likely to occur when the ultimatum game is run?

  • (A.) The players of the game are drawn from a rural community in Michigan; the player in control of the money offers 45% to the other, who rejects the offer.
  • (B.) The players of the game are drawn from an isolated nomadic tribe in South America; the player in control of the money offers 50% to the other, who accepts the offer.
  • (C.) The players of the game are drawn from a group of shepherds who trade livestock for goods with many villages; the player in control of the money offers 20% to the other, who rejects the offer.
  • (D.) The players of the game are drawn from one of the largest cities in China; the player in control of the money offers 40% to the other, who accepts the offer.

(5.) Online social networks provide novel changes in the nature of social connections in all of the following ways EXCEPT:

  • (A.) The specificity of social connections has become more granular; while in the past people have naturally self-sorted into groups that share the same interests, values, and appearances, we can now connect to groups that share a single passionate connection to a particular band or academic subject, across state and national borders.
  • (B.) Our ability to collectively affect real-world outcomes through directed group action has scaled up; whereas businesses and institutions used to be difficult to affect from the ground level, hundreds of thousands of individuals can now express opinions about business practices and legislation in a matter of hours.
  • (C.) The sheer scale of an individual’s observable social network has expanded; whereas we would naturally lose touch with old coworkers, roommates, and members of our high school class, we now maintain formalized connections via websites like Facebook.
  • (D.) The number of genuine friendships has greatly increased; with the innovation of language humans were able to optimally bond with 3.8 people at the same time, an advantage over the one-to-one nature of social grooming, and online social networks allow us to bond optimally with up to 120 people using the efficiency of information distribution.

Answer Key: (1.) B, (2.) C, (3.) D, (4.) A, (5.) C