Published On: Mon, Oct 17th, 2016

Social networks play vital role in group violence



A research study has found that a strong network of friends perhaps just as big a factor in acts of group violence as having a charismatic leader or savvy battle plans. The results may as well apply to possible violent activities connected with terrorism, revolutions, and gangs, researchers added.

Researchers at Yale University in the US researched the social dynamics of the Nyangatom, which is a nomadic tribal group in East Africa that is frequently concerned in violent raids with different groups.

They planned the interpersonal links amid Nyangatom men more than a three-year period, concentrating on how those friendship networks affected the beginning of raids and contribution in those raids.

Nicholas Christakis, who is the co-director of the Yale Institute for Network Science (YINS) and senior writer of the research study, has stated that “Social interactions in networks are vital for the emergence of positive phenomena, similar to collaboration and novelty, but they furthermore perform a role in other types of collective behavior, similar to the apparently spontaneous emergence of violence,”

Christakis further added that “People go to war with their friends, and the social network characteristics of such violent acts have hardly been discovered,”

The research study discovered that the initiation of Nyangatom raids relied on the existence of leaders who had taken part in numerous raids, had many friends and held central positions in the social network.

Nevertheless, membership in raiding parties relied on a populace bigger than the leaders’ network of friends.

Non-leaders, actually, had a larger impact on raid contribution than leaders, by virtue of their own friendships.

Alexander Isakov, who is co-first researcher of the study and a post-doc at the Human Nature Lab at YINS, has told “Collective action doesn’t get off the ground with only an alluring leader attracting random followers,”

Isakov further added “People are driven to participate in the group predominantly due to friendship ties,”

The researcher was of the view that an astonishing facet of the result was the interaction amid leadership and friendship in an environment devoid of any formal hierarchy.

The Nyangatom raiding groups are informal groups of peers; so far individuals performed different roles that reflect a formal leadership arrangement.

Co-first author Luke Glowacki, who is a research fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in France, has said “They have no formal political leaders or chiefs,”

Glowacki said “The lack of political centralization gives a chance to work on the social dynamics of combined action in a way that is hard in a state society, for example, our own. We desired to recognize how, outside of formal leadership or institutions, real-world collective behavior, involving violence, is initiated,”

The results emerged in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


About the Author

Sidra Muntaha

- Sidra Tul Muntaha is a journalist (MA-Mass Communication and M.Phil in Mass Communication) based in Lahore. She is working as an editor at fashion, style and entertainment in the section of the Kooza. She writes fashion and entertainment articles for The Kooza News.

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