Reading Group's schedule of Fall 2015



Oct. 9.: Gangestad, S.W. and Scheyd, G.J. (2005): The Evolution of Human Physical Attractiveness. Annual Review of Anthropology, 34: 523-548.

Abstract: Everywhere the issue has been examined, people make discriminations about others’ physical attractiveness. Can human standards of physical attractiveness be understood through the lens of evolutionary biology? In the past decade, this question has guided much theoretical and empirical work. In this paper, we (a) outline the basic adaptationist approach that has guided the bulk of this work, (b) describe evolutionary models of signaling that have been applied to understand human physical attractiveness, and (c) discuss and evaluate specific lines of empirical research attempting to ad- dress the selective history of human standards of physical attractive- ness. We also discuss ways evolutionary scientists have attempted to understand variability in standards of attractiveness across cultures as well as the ways current literature speaks to body modification in modern Western cultures. Though much work has been done, many fundamental questions remain unanswered.


Oct. 30: Networks, Race, and Hiring
, Roberto M. Fernandez and Isabel Fernandez-Mateo
, American Sociological Review, Vol. 71, No. 1 (Feb., 2006), pp. 42-71 

Abstract: It is common for scholars interested in race and poverty to invoke a lack of access to job networks as one of the reasons that African Americans and Hispanics face difficulties in the labor market. Much research has found, however, that minorities do worse when they use personal networks in job finding. Research in this area has been hampered by the complicated and multi-step nature of thejob-finding process and by the lack of appropriate comparison data for demonstrating the various ways in which minorities can be isolated from good job opportunities. We seek to specify what it means to say that minorities are cut off from job networks. Building on the literature on social networksin the labor market, we delineate the various mechanisms by which minorities can be isolated from good job opportunities. We examine how these mechanisms operate, using unique data on the chain of network contacts that funnel to an employer offering desirable jobs. We find that network factors operate at several stages of the recruitment process. We find scant evidence, however, that these network factors serve to cut off minorities from employment in this setting. We conclude with a discussion of the theoretical and methodological implications of the case for the study of networks, race, and hiring. 


Nov. 20.: Ethnic segregation of friendship networks in school: Testing a rational-choice argument of differences in ethnic homophily between classroom- and grade-level networks, Lars Leszczensky, Sebastian Pink
, Social Networks 42 (2015) 18–26

Abstract: Adolescents’ school-based friendship networks tend to be segregated along ethnic lines. But few studies have examined whether variation in network boundaries affects the degree of ethnic friendship segrega- tion. We use rational-choice theory to argue that ethnic homophily is more pronounced for friendships between classrooms than for those within classrooms. We empirically test this hypothesis using two- wave German panel data (N=1258) and stochastic actor-oriented models (RSiena). In line with our theoretical argument, we find that the tendency to form same-ethnic friendships is indeed stronger at the grade level, which translates into stronger ethnic segregation in friendship networks at the grade level than at the classroom level. Implications for research on ethnic segregation in school-based friendship networks are discussed. 


Nov. 27.: The co-evolution of gossip and friendship in workplace social networks, Lea Ellwardt, Christian Steglich, Rafael Wittek
, Social Networks 34 (2012) 623–633 

Abstract: This study investigates the co-evolution of friendship and gossip in organizations. Two contradicting perspectives are tested. The social capital perspective predicts that friendship causes gossip between employees, defined as informal evaluative talking about absent colleagues. The evolutionary perspective reverses this causality claiming that gossiping facilitates friendship. The data comprises of three observations of a complete organizational network, allowing longitudinal social network analyses. Gossip and friendship are modeled as both explanatory and outcome networks with RSiena. Results support the evolutionary perspective in that gossip between two individuals increases the likelihood of their future friendship formation. However, individuals with disproportionately high gossip activity have fewer friends in the network, suggesting that the use of gossiping to attract friends has a limit. 


Dec. 4.: The Influence of Affective Teacher–Student Relationships on Students’ School Engagement and Achievement: A Meta-Analytic Approach, Debora L. Roorda and Helma M. Y. Koomen, Jantine L. Spilt , Frans J. Oort, Review of Educational Research December 2011, Vol. 81, No. 4, pp. 493–529 

Abstract:  A meta-analytic approach was used to investigate the associations between affective qualities of teacher–student relationships (TSRs) and students’ school engagement and achievement. Results were based on 99 studies, including students from preschool to high school. Separate analyses were conducted for positive relationships and engagement (k = 61 studies, N = 88,417 students), negative relationships and engagement (k = 18, N = 5,847), positive relationships and achievement (k = 61, N = 52,718), and negative relationships and achievement (k = 28, N = 18,944). Overall, associations of both positive and negative relationships with engagement were medium to large, whereas associations with achievement were small to medium. Some of these associations were weaker, but still statistically significant, after correction for methodological biases. Overall, stronger effects were found in the higher grades. Nevertheless, the effects of negative relationships were stronger in primary than in secondary school. 


Jan. 15.: Doreian, P., & Mrvar, A. (2015). Structural Balance and Signed International Relations. Journal of Social Structure, 16.

Abstract: We use balance theoretic ideas to study the dynamics of the international system of nations in a network of signed relations from 1946 through 1999. Using the Correlates of War data for this period, we apply pre-specified signed blockmodeling to characterize the fundamental structure of this network. Even though the system expanded greatly with many ties being created and/or destroyed, the basic structure remained the same but with new positions being added over time. The blockmodels generated temporal measures of imbalance, as did the counts of imbalanced triples. Regardless of using the line index of imbalance or the number of imbalanced 3-cycles, the results provided decisive evidence contradicting the balance theoretic hypothesis of signed networks moving towards balanced states. Structural balance theory remains very useful by pointing to the more important study of how and why signed networks move towards and away from balance at different points over time. Some major methodological problems for studying signed networks, regardless of whether they involve nations or human actors, were raised and addressed. Proposals for future research are suggested for modeling and understanding the dynamics of signed networks. 


Jan. 22: Are Facebook ‘‘Friends’’ Helpful? Development of a Facebook-Based Measure of Social Support and Examination of Relationships Among Depression, Quality of Life, and Social Support, Wilfred McCloskey, Sierra Iwanicki, Dean Lauterbach, David M. Giammittorio, and Kendal Maxwell, CYBERPSYCHOLOGY, BEHAVIOR, AND SOCIAL NETWORKING, Volume 18, Number 9, 2015

Abstract: Greater social support is predictive of lower depression and higher quality of life (QOL). However, the way in which social support is provided has changed greatly with the expanding role of social networking sites (e.g., Facebook). While there are numerous anecdotal accounts of the benefits of Facebook-based social support, little empirical evidence exists to support these assertions, and there are no empirically validated measures designed to assess social support provided via this unique social networking medium. This study sought to develop an empirically sound measure of Facebook-based social support (Facebook Measure of Social Support [FMSS]) and to assess how this new measure relates to previously established measures of support and two outcome variables: depression and QOL. Following exploratory factor analysis, the FMSS was determined to assess four factors of social support on Facebook (Perceived, Emotional, Negative, Received/Instrumental). The Negative Support factor on the FMSS was most strongly related to both depression and QOL with magnitudes (and direction of relationships) comparable to a traditional measure of perceived social support. However, two FMSS factors (Received/Instrumental and Perceived) were unrelated to both mental health outcomes. Contrary to expectations, elevations in one FMSS factor (Emotional) was associated with worse symptoms of depression and poorer psychological QOL. When taken together, only the absence of negative social support on Facebook is significantly predictive of mental health functioning. Consequently, those hoping to use Facebook as a medium for reducing depression or improving QOL are unlikely to realize significant therapeutic benefits.


Jan. 29: How social exclusion distorts social network perceptions, Kathleen M. O’Connor, Eric Gladstone
, Social Networks 40 (2015) 123–128

Abstract: In two studies we investigate whether social exclusion—a well-studied, common and quite painful social experience-influences people’s perceptions of novel social networks. In a first study, exclusion experiences led people to report that novel networks were more dense relative to those who had not been excluded. As predicted, this was true only for social networks; exclusion had no impact on perceptions when networks were described as geographical. In a follow-up experiment, participants watched a custom-created video, depicting avatars interacting in social scenes and they were asked to report the ties among the avatars in the video. Exclusion experiences led people to see network ties where none exist (i.e., false positives), though there was no effect for exclusion (versus inclusion) on reports of false negatives. Results indicate that common social experiences systematically shape network perceptions, leading people to seeing novel social networks as more densely connected than they are.