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The Propagation of Memories within Small Groups and across Social Networks

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This project was supported by the NSF's Perception, Action, & Cognition and Social Psychology Programs (Award #1456928).
Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

About the Project

The idea of social influence has long been a topic of fascination. However, recent work has argued that those within our social networks (e.g., friends, family) exert influence that is both more pervasive and more complex that previously thought. The people you surround yourself with influence everything from smoking to the clothes you wear to your life expectancy to the number of children you decide to have. The current project seeks to investigate how these influences occur, and proposes an investigation of the flow of information between individuals to understand social influences. The project will include a sequence of behavioral experiments. In addition, the project will ultimately generate a computational model developed on the basis of the behavioral findings. This model will allow rigorous predictions to be made about how information flows within large, realistic social networks. Overall, the project will provide insight that will improve understanding of how behaviors are transmitted with populations and can ultimately guide policies related to social influences on a variety of behaviors (such life expectancy, eyewitness memory, and smoking).

The current project seeks to investigate the social transmission of memory and how such transmission shapes the memories shared among individuals (i.e., collective memory) as the basis for understanding how social networks influence behavior. Because the structure of the network becomes increasingly complex as social networks increase in size and because past work has almost exclusively employed small, unstructured groups, the project focuses on the structure of the interactions. The project consists of a series of studies investigating an increasingly complex set of social interactions. Each study consists of a behavioral experiment and an analogous agent-based computational simulation. The behavioral experiments will provide empirical data allowing the model to then be revised so as to more accurately reflect the underlying psychological processes. With the increasing complexity of the experiments, each set of behavioral data will represent an increasingly rigorous test of the agent model. The project will ultimately yield a psychologically plausible model capable of both describing the mechanisms that underlie the social transmission of memory and of faithfully capturing the flow of memory convergence (and divergence) of individuals situated within structured networks. Once realized, this experimentally-validated model will allow collective memory phenomena to be investigated at scales that are not feasible in laboratory settings.

Research Team

Principal investigators


REU-supported Research Assistants

Publications and Presentations

Journal Articles

Conference Proceedings

Keynote/Invited Talks

Conference Presentations


Contact Us

Please address any inquiries about this project to:

Christian Luhmann
Stony Brook University
Department of Psychology
Stony Brook University
Stony Brook, NY 11794-2500
Email: christian.luhmann@stonybrook.edu
Phone: (631) 632-7086

Suparna Rajaram
Stony Brook University
Department of Psychology
Stony Brook University
Stony Brook, NY 11794-2500
Email: suparna.rajaram@stonybrook.edu
Phone: (631) 632-7841