The Circles and Lines of “Love”

I ran across this blurb on digg just a few minutes ago. For whatever reason, I found the concept of this type of graphical representation, and what it can tell us about human relationships in general to be strangely interesting.

These researchers at The Ohio State University decided to survey a mid-western high school of approximately 1000 students, asking them to pick out their romantic partners have been over the past 18 months from a roster of students at the school. The researchers then drew a graph with pink and blue dots (representing males and females), and lines (representing relationships). Here’s the graph. And here’s the article about the research.

Some interesting points:

  • The most striking feature of the network was a single component that connected 52 percent (288) of the romantically involved students at Jefferson. This means student A had relations with student B, who had relations with student C and so on, connecting all 288 of these students.
  • The lack of cycling seems traceable to rules that adolescents have about who they will not date. The teens will not date (from a female perspective) one’s old boyfriend’s current girlfriend’s old boyfriend. This would be considered taking “seconds” in a relationship.
  • The practical result from such a rule is that no cores form, and that long, chain-like networks form instead. That has important implications for preventing the spread of STDs in teenage populations, according to Moody, Bearman and Stovel…“there aren’t any hubs to target, so you have to focus on broad-based interventions,” Moody said. “You can’t just focus on a small group.”
  1. #1 by MRhé on February 25, 2007 - 12:21 pm

    This is a pretty interesting rig. You’ve always got some good stuff on here. Unlike so much of the blogosphere…like that hacky

  2. #2 by Mike on February 26, 2007 - 3:13 pm

    That’s pretty interesting, but I think they ripped the idea off from the Showtime show The L Word. One of the characters on the show maintains a chart of all of the lesbian relationships, starting with her and her friends and fanning outwards. It’s represented on her computer in typical Hollywood-style wow-gee-whizz-OMG-3D / no-actual-applications-ever-look-like-this fashion, but I guess this season they actually decided to try to implement it, at I haven’t looked into it much, but it uses AJAX, so you know it’s good.