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The University Is a Friendlier Place Thanks to the Small World Phenomenon


by Gail Tom, Alice Chen, Harriet Liao, Jian Shao & Raman Singh — September 30, 2005

The small world phenomenon occurs when we meet a complete stranger, perhaps far away from home, and find that to our amazement, we know someone in common. We punctuate our surprise with the cliché, “What a small world!” This study investigated the existence of the small world phenomenon among the members of a large, diverse university community. Email was used to determine that the average number of links or intermediary persons needed for a randomly selected member of the university community to reach another member of the community was less than four. The role of the small world phenomenon in the establishment of cohesion and affinity among community members is discussed.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: September 30, 2005
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 12186, Date Accessed: 10/22/2017 10:45:50 PM

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About the Author
  • Gail Tom
    California State University, Sacramento
    E-mail Author
    GAIL TOM is a professor in the Department of Management, College of Business Administration at the California State University, Sacramento. Her research interests include consumer behavior, marketing, advertising and education. Recent publications include: Louie, Therese A., and Tom, Gail, “Timely Completion of Class Requirements: Effects of Student and Faculty Gender," Sex Roles, February 2005. Tom, Gail, “The Endowment—Institutional Affinity Effect” Journal of Psychology, March 2004, 138(2), 160–170.
  • Alice Chen
    California State University, Sacramento

  • Harriet Liao
    California State University, Sacramento

  • Jian Shao
    California State University, Sacramento

  • Raman Singh
    California State University, Sacramento

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