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Stony Brook Researchers Confirms Information Is Contagious Among Social Connections

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Stony Brook Researchers Confirm Information Is Contagious Among Social Connections

 Associate Professor Christian Luhmann, Ph.D. and Professor Suparna Rajaram, Ph.D. of Stony Brook University

STONY BROOK, NY—November 17, 2015— A new study using advanced computer modeling, conducted by researchers from Stony Brook University, found that the memory of one individual can indirectly influence that of another via shared social connections — shedding light on the mechanisms that drive real-world contagious phenomena, including smoking, obesity, eyewitness testimony and even fads and fashion. The findings are published in
Psychological Science
, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“In large social networks, our model demonstrated that information is ‘contagious’ in much the same way that behavior seems to be contagious,” say Associate Professor Christian Luhmann, Ph.D. and Professor Suparna Rajaram, Ph.D. of Stony Brook University. “These results suggest that information transmission is a critical mechanism underlying the social transmission of behavior.”

Luhmann and Rajaram incorporated well-established cognitive processes into computer models capable of simulating groups much larger than those typically seen in laboratory research. In doing so, they would be able to see how individuals interact, and how information flows, within groups that ranged from two to 500 people.

“We know that social influences on memory are complex, and yet our simplified model is sufficient to account for key findings from previous work, both within small groups and large social networks,” say Luhmann and Rajaram. “Taken together, the findings of the current study leverage laboratory results and explanations to develop a much-needed theoretical account of behavior in large social networks.”

To learn more about the research visit and

This research was supported by National Science Foundation Grant 1456928.


 About APS journal
The APS journal Psychological Science is the highest ranked empirical journal in psychology. For a copy of the article “Memory Transmission in Small Groups and Large Networks: An Agent-Based Model” and access to other Psychological Science research findings, please contact Anna Mikulak at 202-293-9300 or

About Stony Brook University

Part of the State University of New York system, Stony Brook University encompasses 200 buildings on 1,450 acres. Since welcoming its first incoming class in 1957, the University has grown tremendously, now with more than 25,000 students and 2,500 faculty. Its membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU) places Stony Brook among the top 62 research institutions in North America. U.S. News & World Report ranks Stony Brook among the top 100 universities in the nation and top 40 public universities, and Kiplinger names it one of the 35 best values in public colleges. One of four University Center campuses in the SUNY system, Stony Brook co-manages Brookhaven National Laboratory, putting it in an elite group of universities that run federal research and development laboratories. A global ranking by U.S. News & World Report places Stony Brook in the top 1 percent of institutions worldwide.  It is one of only 10 universities nationwide recognized by the National Science Foundation for combining research with undergraduate education. As the largest single-site employer on Long Island, Stony Brook is a driving force of the regional economy, with an annual economic impact of $4.65 billion, generating nearly 60,000 jobs, and accounts for nearly 4 percent of all economic activity in Nassau and Suffolk counties, and roughly 7.5 percent of total jobs in Suffolk County.

Reporter Contact:  Alida Almonte

Stony Brook University Newsroom

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