Understanding Social Networks: Theories, Concepts, and Findings

5 September 2017 | Charles Kadushin (2012). Understanding Social Networks: Theories, Concepts, and FindingsOxford University Press, USA.


Social networks are problem-solving tools in understanding why people went to psychiatrists and how elites were organized.

Social networks are key methodological and theoretical insights that could help to unpack social phenomena.

Chapter 1. Introduction

A network is simply a set of relations between objects which could be people, organizations, nations, items found in a Google search, brain cells, or electrical transformers.

Social networks are resilient and constantly adapting. Large “mass societies” remain bound by personal ties.

Take out a key point, and the network becomes ineffective.

Two of the major propositions of social networks: homophily—people with like characteristics tend to be connected; and influence—connected people tend to have an effect on one another.

Chapter 2. Basic Network Concepts, Part I: Individual Members of Networks

What Is a Network?

A network is a set of relationships.

Three kinds of networks: ego-centric, sociocentric, and open-system networks.

Ego-centric networks are those networks that are connected with a single node or individual, for example, my good friends or all the companies that do business with Widgets, Inc. (the favorite name of organizations studied in business schools). However, a list is not necessarily a network. In popular discourse, especially when social support is discussed, any list is called a “network.”It is a network in a basic sense because even if no one on the list is connected with one another, each individual is at least all connected with the person being supported. The support may include help with a job search, comfort during an illness, or a loan of money or a lawn mower. A person with a large number of good friends whom he or she can count on is commonly said to have a large “network.”This network cannot be discussed in social network terms, however, unless we know whether and how these people are connected with one another. It is obviously one thing to have a supportive network in which most people know one another and a very different matter if the people are unknown to one another.

Socio-centric networks are networks in a “box.” Connections between children in a classroom or between executives or workers in an organization are closed system networks and the ones most often studied in terms of the fine points of network structure.

Open system networks are networks in which the boundaries are not necessarily clear, for they are not in a box—for example, the elite of the United States, connections between corporations, the chain of influencers of a particular decision, or the adopters of new practices. In some ways, these are the most interesting networks.

Sociological Questions about Relationships




Individual-Level Homophily

Homophily and Collectivities

Dyads and Mutuality

Balance and Triads

Where We Are Now

3. Basic Network Concepts, Part II: Whole Social Networks


Dyads and Triads


Structural Holes

Weak Ties

“Popularity” or Centrality


Size of the Interpersonal Environment

The “Small World”


Roles and Positions

Named Positions and Relationships

Informal Positions and Relationships

Informal Relations and Hierarchies

Embeddedness of the Informal within Instituted or Named Networks

Observed Roles


4. Basic Network Concepts, Part III: Network Segmentation


Named and Unnamed Network Segments

Primary Groups, Cliques, and Clusters

Segmenting Networks from the Point of View of the Observer

Segmenting Groups on the Basis of Cohesion

Resistance to Disruption

Structural Similarity and Structural Equivalence

Core/Periphery Structures

Where We Are Now

5. The Psychological Foundations of Social Networks

Getting Things Done

Community and Support

Safety and Affiliation

Effectiveness and Structural Holes

Safety and Social Networks

Effectiveness and Social Networks

Both Safety and Effectiveness?

Driving for Status or Rank

Cultural Differences in Safety, Effectance, and Rank

Motivations and Practical Networks

Motivations of Corporate Actors

Cognitive Limits on Individual Networks

Where We Are Now

6. Small Groups, Leadership, and Social Networks: The Basic Building Blocks


Primary Groups and Informal Systems: Propositions

Pure Informal Systems

How to Find Informal Systems

Asymmetric Ties and the Influence of the External System

Formalizing the System

Where We Are Now

7. Organizations and Networks

The Contradictions of Authority

Emergent Networks in Organizations

The Factory Floor

Information-Driven Organizations

Inside the Box, Outside the Box, or Both

Bridging the Gaps: Tradeoffs between Network Size, Diversity, and Social Cohesion

Where We Are Now

8. The Small World, Circles, and Communities


How Many People Do You Know?

The Skewed Distribution of the Number of People One Knows

Formal Small World Models

Clustering in Social Networks

Social Circles

The Small World Search

Applications of Small World Theory to Smaller Worlds

Where We Are Now

9. Networks, Influence, and Diffusion Networks and Diffusion—An Introduction The Basic Model

Exogenous Factors in the Adoption of Innovations

Influence and Decision-Making

The Current State of Personal Influence

Self-Designated Opinion Leaders or Influentials

Characteristics of Opinion Leaders and Influentials

Group Influence

Epidemiology and Network Diffusion

Social Networks and Epidemiology

Social Networks and HIV-AIDS

Transporting Disease—Large-Scale Models

Tipping Points and Thresholds


Where We Are Now

10. Networks as Social Capital


The General Idea of Social Capital

Social Capital as an Investment

Individual-Level Social Capital

Social Support Individual

Networked Resources: Position and Resource Generators

Correlates of Individual Social Capital

Other Indicators of Networked Resources

Social Capital as an Attribute of Social Systems

Theorists of Social System Social Capital

Bowling Alone

Recent Findings on Social System Social Capital and Its Consequences

Where We Are Now

11. Ethical Dilemmas of Social Network Research

Networks as a Research Paradigm

Anonymity, Confidentiality, Privacy, and Consent

Who Benefits

Cases and Examples

Survey Research

Organization Research

Terrorists and Criminals

Networks and Terrorism: The CASOS Projects

Conclusion: More Complicated than the Belmont Report

12. Coda: Ten Master Ideas of Social Networks


The Ten Master Ideas






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