This is for my Social Psychology class - for assessment and communication. I hope you find my thoughts interesting and please feel free to comment!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Blog 2: Homophily - evident within daily life....

Essay Question: Homophily - What is it? Discuss in relation to examples from your own life.

Abstract
Understanding and acknowledging that homophily is an ever present component within daily life is an important realisation. Furthermore, knowledge surrounding homophily history, types, and causes helps to assist understanding of the theories posited to help explain such a phenomenon. Additionally, this aids awareness for the need for research within this field. Using theory and research and examples from personal relationships (see Appendix C), homophily will be explained and hopefully better understood. Realising and accepting the psychological characteristics at work within the concept of homophily will assist current and future relationships for not only myself but also those around me.

Introduction
Homophily, (self-love) coined by Lazarsfeld and Merton applies broadly (Currarini, Jackson & Pin, 2007), to the principle that according to McPherson, Smith-Lovin and Cook (2001) “similarity breeds connection” (p. 415). Homophily exists in daily life structures: marriage, friendship, co-membership, support, advice, work and other relationships (McPherson et al.,). Consequently social constructs can be homogeneous in relation to behavioural, intrapersonal and socio-demographic components (McPherson et al.,). It has been stated that exchange of messages between a source and receiver that are similar, homophilous, occur more frequently within human interaction (Rogers & Bhowmik, 1971). Homophily is seen in demographics of gender, age, race/ethnicity, and education and psychological components surrounding attitudes, intelligence, aspirations (McPherson et al.,), beliefs, values and social status (Rogers & Bhowmik, 1971). Homophily history, theory, types, causes and research will be discussed in conjunction with personal examples (see Appendix C), to illustrate the concept of homophily in everyday situations and relationships.

Homophily
Different types of homophily exist, status and value homophily (Lazarsfeld & Merton, 1954, cited in McPherson et al., 2001). Status homophily is based on formal, informal or recognised status; and incorporates the socio-demographic factors that separate society, such as: sex, age, race, and ethnicity and gained characteristics including education, occupation, religion or behavioural factors (McPherson et al.,). Value homophily surrounds attitudes, beliefs and values; and involves the internal states which are presumed to elicit influence over future behaviour (McPherson et al.,). Within the concept of liking, techniques such as similarity and familiarity can be ulitised as forms of social persuasion (Sundie, Cialdini, Griskevicius & Kenrick, 2006). Additionally, relationships can also be strengthened by similarity, as it implies possible compatibility with a potential mate (Lehr & Geher, 2006).

Homophily History
Before the turn of the century, researchers had recognised homophily as the inclination for similarities within friendships (McPherson & Smith-Lovin, 1987). Aristotle once wrote within his Rhetoric and Nichomachean Ethics that people “love those who are like themselves” (Aristotle, 1934, p. 1371, cited in McPherson et al., p. 416). Furthermore, Plato stated within Phaedrus that "similarity begets friendship" (Plato, 1968, p. 837, cited in McPherson et al., p. 416). Additionally, Tarde said “social relations, I repeat, are much closer between individuals who resemble each other in occupation and education” (Tarde, 1903, cited in Rogers & Bhowmik, 1971, p. 525). Lazarsfeld and Merton also quoted the well known expression of “birds of a feather flock together,” which is still used to illustrate the concept of homophily, which they attributed to Robert Burton (McPherson et al., p. 417).

Homophily Causes
Geography is the physical foundations in homophily interactions, as individuals are more likely to have contact with other individuals that are closer in proximity (McPherson et al., 2001). Another possible explanation for the cause of homophily lies within family ties which ulitise a biosocial web for connection to those around us that may be similar or diverse (McPherson et al.,). McPherson et al. stated organizational foci as another component within homophily, as many non kin ties that are created are fostered from work, school and organisational focus (Louch, 2000, cited in McPherson et al.,). Additionally, isomorphic sources of family, informal roles and occupation have been linked to homophily due to their influence (Burt, 1982, cited in McPherson et al.,). Moreover, cognitive processes can be seen to influence homophily attraction through perceived similarity and the tendency for people to associate with those similar to themselves (McPherson et al.,). Additionally, a sociology approach known as constructuralism has core components that posit people who interact are those that are more likely to share knowledge (Carley, 1991, cited in McPherson et al.,). Lastly, selective tie dissolution is posited by McPherson et al. in conjunction with homophily by affecting the probability that a tie will disband. More specifically, the strength of homophily in tie formation and decay has been suggested as a possible factor of the significance of structure foci in the initial tie formation process (McPherson et al.,). Some of these explanations for homophily are also evident within my personal relationships (see Appendix C).

Homophily Theory
In relation to prediction of liking and attraction, similarity stands alone. One key component of liking someone is based on personality, interests and personal history similarities (Fiske, 2004). This is also known as the similarity-attraction hypothesis. According to Fiske, at least three models explain the similarity-attraction hypothesis. Firstly, positive reinforcement, the principle that shared attitudes confirms and validates an individual’s beliefs and attitudes (Fiske). Reinforcement theory states that people will seek out behaviours that have been rewarded more (Baumeister & Bushman, 2008). This can be seen within friendships that confirm each others beliefs. As if people agree, the individual’s self esteem is boosted because they are correct, which leads to attraction because an individual will feel good around the other person (Fiske). This idea rests on the concept of self-enhancement which in turn fosters self-esteem building (Fiske). Secondly, the concept of mutual group membership posits that shared attitudes confirm group membership, which encourages belonging to a group and ultimately influences attraction to that group (Fiske). The third model for the similarity-attraction hypothesis is explained by shared attitudes and thus mutual attraction, leading to inferred liking (Fiske). This theory of explanation for homophily can be applied to my personal relationships with many of my friends. I have always maintained my strongest friendships with those similar to me as opposed to those that are vastly different. The need for similar interests and attitudes has always been an important factor within my relationships as it fosters greater interaction and activities possibilities. Furthermore, when friends have similar attitudes and beliefs the interaction is more likely to be positive than friends who have different opinions and consequently clash within daily interactions.

Another important theory within homophily is the balance theory, the general principle that within others and oneself, people prefer and gather cognitive, affective and behavioural consistency (Fiske, 2004). Psychologically, within the balance theory people will see similarities in those people if they like each other, and vice versa, likeability will be increased if they are perceived as similar (Fiske). These theories of homophily can be adequately seen within my personal relationships and naturally greater incentive is available to those with similar ideas or beliefs. This in relation to myself can be seen within my friends and family relationships (see Appendix C).

Homophily Research
Homophily has been examined in school aged children on the basis of gender and race homophily development. Within Shrum, Cheek Jr and Hunter’s (1988) research, participants included 2,135 school children aged 5 to 17 years from public schools, in grades 3 to 12 from a Southern community in America. Overall the results indicated a gradual decline in gender homophily, as gender segregation decreased as the students progressed through the grades into junior high (Shrum et al.,). Gender segregation reversed once students reached junior high, as within elementary school boys originally showed a greater preference to associate with boys, compared to girls wanting to associate with other girls. Racial segregation was original fairly low but increased rapidly until the students reached junior high, indicating a reversal in racial preference and association once the students reached junior high (Shrum et al.,). The results of this research indicated that homophily in regard to certain dimensions varies depending on age. Furthermore, this illuminates the importance of understanding homophily within schools and the possible changes which can be a byproduct of homophily associations.

Homophily has been discussed in relation to the ever present issue of drug taking within today’s society. Smoking, alcohol and drug taking behaviour are stated as being similar between friends (Brook, Whiteman & Gordon, 1983; Doreian, 1989, cited in Pearson, Steglich & Snijders, 2006). Consequently homophily has been debated against the concept of assimilation in regard to this type of behaviour (Pearson et al.,). One conclusion of this research was the link between homophily and alcohol consumption. Pearson et al. found that homophily was a more appropriate predictor of behaviour compared to assimilation. I feel this concept of homophily and alcohol is ever present within today’s society as people who enjoy partaking in such behaviour associate with likeminded people. In regard to my personal relationships my friends and I would be classified as social drinkers, however all our personalities generally match each other and I presume this is why we enjoy each others company, whether alcohol is involved or not.

Conclusion
It seems that homophily is an evident and ever present concept within daily life. Homophily has a long history and has been explained by the similarity-attraction hypothesis, reinforcement theory and balance theory. Research has examined homophily for many different variables, however the research within this essay discussed research of racial and gender homophily. Consequently it was found that homophily may not be a stable phenomenon for certain variables. Ultimately, homophily is very prominent within my life (see Appendix C), and no matter how much I try to convince myself otherwise I feel I will always be more attracted to those similar to myself, in a non narcissist way of course.

Word Count: 1500


References:

Baumeister, R. F. & Bushman, B. J. (2008). Social psychology and human nature. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.

Currarini, S., Jackson, M. O., & Pin, P. (2007). An economic model of friendship: homophily, minorities and segregation. Retrieved October 25, 2007 from http://www.stanford.edu/~jacksonm/netminority.pdf

Fiske, S. T. (2004). Social beings: a core motives approach to social psychology. USA: Wiley.

Lehr, A. T., & Geher, G. (2006). Differential effects of reciprocity and attitude similarity across long- versus short-term mating contexts. The Journal of Social Psychology, 146 (4), 423-439.

McPherson, J. M., & Smith-Lovin, L. (1987). Homophily in voluntary organizations: status distance and the composition of face-to-face groups. American Sociological Review, 52, 370-379.

McPherson, M., Smith-Lovin, L., & Cook, J. M. (2001). Birds of a feather: homophily in social networks. Annual Review of Sociology, 27, 415-444.

Pearson, M., Steglich, C., & Snijders, T. (2006). Homophily and assimilation among sport-active adolescent substance users. CONNECTIONS, 27 (1), 47-63.

Rogers, E. M., & Bhowmik, D. K. (1971). Homophily-heterophily: relational concepts for communication research. Public Opinion Quarterly, 34 (4), 523-538.

Shrum, W., Cheek Jr, J. H., & Hunter, S. M. (1988). Friendship in school: gender and racial homophily. Sociology of Education, 61 (4), 227-239.

Sundie, J. M., Cialdini, R. B., Griskevicius, V., & Kenrick, D. T. (2006). Evolutionary social influence. In M. Schaller, J. A. Simpson, & D. T. Kenrick (Eds.), Evolution and social psychology (pp. 287 - 316). New York: Psychology Press.

Wikipedia. (2007). The free encyclopedia. Retrieved October 28, 2007 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page


Appendices

Appendix A: Self Assessment

Appendix B: Links of Interest

Appendix C: Table of Personal Relationships

Appendix D: Others blogs related to similarities and relationships

Appendix E: Glossary of Terms

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