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"Going Viral": Behavior Analysis, Communication Networks, and Selection by Consequences

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The data visualization on the right is what a picture that received 1 million shares on Facebook looks like, according to Alex Dow, a Facebook data scientist.  Every dark clump represents a particularly well connected Facebook user.

Chris Taylor, of Mashable, notes that, unlike Kevin Bacon, "there is no six degrees of separation.  On Facebook, it seems, we roll hundreds of thousands of nodes deep." 

To read more about behavior analytic research on communication networks, check out the 2009 special issue on Behavioral Systems Analysis in the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management.  In particular, the article by Houmanfar, Rorigues, and Smith titled "Role of Communication Networks in Behavioral Systems Analysis" and the article by Ingunn Sandaker titled "A Selectionist Perspective on Systemic and Behavioral Change in Organizations."

Behavior analysts are familiar with communication networks, but concepts from the Internet 2.0 Age such as "going viral" have received little attention.  For another angle on the topic, check out B. F. Skinner's (1981) classic article "Selection by Consequences." In it, he differentiates cultural section from operant selection on the basis that the former concerns itself with the transmission of behavior across individuals.

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