Strictly speaking, many of your friends are likely to be friends with each other – but there are benefits to having friends that don’t hang out together.
One of the big benefits of social network analysis is that it allows us to infer how something moves through a network, whether that something is a behaviour, disease, or information, rather than necessarily looking for direct transfers between individuals.
‘But how can I look for diffusion of marmite-eating/teeth-whitening/syphilis through a network?’ I hear you cry! Network-based diffusion analysis (NBDA) is the answer.
Aplin, Farine, Morand-Ferron and Sheldon over at the EGI have a new and rather cool paper out in Proc B that uses the NBDA approach to investigate whether birds’ social networks predict their use of social information, measured by their appearance at new feed stations.
Using blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus), great tits (Parus major) and marsh tits (Poecile palustris) the team demonstrate that information flows through the network in a manner consistent with network theory. Birds that found the new food patches tended to have higher centrality measures – briefly, they were important in connecting otherwise unconnected groups.
For more on this neat paper (Social networks predict patch discovery in a wild population of songbirds), there’s always the abstract.