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

Draft 1: Blog 2: Homophily Essay

Hey Everyone! I just wanted to post my draft up (I am still working on the final thing) - I have to cut back on my words and re-edit and add in some more on research but I thought I would publish it and possibily get some feedback...any feedback/comments welcome! Thanks!!

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

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, homophily will be explained and ultimately 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 (need to possibily re-work)
Homophily, the term coined by Lazarsfeld and Merton applies broadly (Currarini, Jackson & Pin, 2007), to the adage of “birds of a feather flock together,” which follows the principle that according to McPherson, Smith-Lovin and Cook (2001) “similarity breeds connection” (p. 415). Homophily is evident within many daily life structures. These can include: marriage, friendship, co-membership, support, advice, work and other types of relationships (McPherson et al.,). Consequently social constructs can be homogeneous in relation to behavioural, intrapersonal and socio-demographic components (McPherson et al.,). More specifically, homophily theory states that contact between people that are similar will occur more frequently than people who are dissimilar (McPherson et al.,). Additionally, genetic, cultural, behavioural and material information will tend to be contained within a smaller area (McPherson et al.,). Homophily can be seen within demographics of gender, age, race/ethnic, and education and psychological components surrounding attitudes, intelligence and aspirations (McPherson et al.,). Furthermore, research has shown strong evidence for the existence of homophily on a variety of dimensions (Currarini et al.,). Homophily history, theory, types, causes and research will be discussed in conjunction with personal examples to illustrate the concept of homophily in everyday situations and relationships.

Homophily Types
It has been stated that different types of homophily exist. More specifically status homophily and value homophily. Status homophily is based on the concept on formal, informal or recognised status; where as value homophily surrounds attitudes, beliefs and values (Lazarsfeld & Merton, 1954, cited in McPherson et al., 2001). Status homophily 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 involves the internal states which are presumed to elicit influence over future behaviour (McPherson et al.,). These two different types of homophily illustrate the deeper idea behind the concept. Many people will say “oh no my partner and I are totally different, opposites attract,” but it has become clearer to me that the underlying concept of homophily goes deeper than recreational or hobby differences between friends, partners or family. It’s not as fickle as ‘he likes football and I like shopping’ it is about strong attitudes and beliefs about world concepts and ideas. If someone disputed something you strongly believed in or fight for, I would highly doubt a strong friendship would blossom without serious effort and negotiation.

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.,). Moreover, within the sociological field, is the classic work of Lazarsfeld and Merton and their study of friendship (McPherson et al.,). Additionally 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.,).

Homophily Causes
In terms of homophily, it is important to acknowledge possible influences over the idea of liking those similar to us. Geography plays an essential role in homophily interactions as it is common sense that individuals are more likely to have contact with other individuals that are closer in proximity compared to those that are further away (McPherson et al., 2001). Another possible explanation for the cause of homophily lies within family ties. Although geography has been acknowledged as a physical foundation for homophily, family connections ulitise a biosocial web for connection to those around us that may be similar or diverse (McPherson et al.,). McPherson et al. discuss organizational foci as another component within homophily, more specifically 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 occupational have been linked to homophily. This has been likened to the idea that similar people will inhabit similar positions in life and often elicit influence on each other (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, McPherson et al. has stated that a sociology approach known as constructuralism has core components that 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.,).

Homophily Theory
In relation to prediction of liking and attraction, similarity stands alone. Several factors can contribute to liking someone, and one key component is based on similarities, such as: personality, interests and personal history (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). 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). The principle of the balance theory is that psychological, people will see similarities in those people if they like each other, and vice versa, likeability will be increase if they are perceived as similar (Fiske). Consequently this theory posits that people like to agree with their friends and in reciprocation like to befriend those who confirm and agree with them (Fiske). Both these theory of homophily can be adequately seen within my personal relationships and naturally greater incentive is available to those with similar ideas or beliefs. Which is relation to myself can be seen within my friends and family relationships.

Homophily Research
(need to add a little more in here regarding: Differences for gender, age, more research etc)

The theory of 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 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 are going to look for and association with those who will participate in such behaviour. It seems common interactions illustrate the point that “birds of a feather do really flock together.” In regard to my personal relationships my friends and are would be classified as social drinkers, with the odd binge, however all our styles match each other and I presume this is the basis as to why we enjoy each others company, whether alcohol is involved or not.

It seems that homophily is an evident and ever present concept within daily life for all people. The concept of homophily rings true within my personal relationships as within my family those who I choose to spend more time with, excluding compulsory family events, are those that are like minded and similar to myself in many ways. These include educational status, deep seeded beliefs and attitudes and overall outlook on life. However within my family, age and gender do not seem to play a key role. In relation to romantic partners it has become clearer to me the extent that homophily exists within my life, as my boyfriend and I were not particularly similar and consequently the relationship ended, once again proving that opposites may attract but eventually may also repel. Finally in relation to my close friends we are very similar in regard to age, education, values and attitudes. I feel this is why our friendship has become strong as it follows the principle of reinforcement theory; those who make us feel good are more likely to elicit greater bonds and overall friendship. Therefore within my life I feel homophily is very prominent and no matter much I try to convince myself otherwise I will always be more attracted to those similar to myself, in a totally non narcissist way of course!

Currarini, S., Jackson, M. O., & Pin, P. (2007). An economic model of friendship: homophily, minorities and segregation. Retrieved October 25, 2007 from

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

McPherson, J. M., & Smith-Lovin, L. (1987). Homophily in voluntary organizations: status distance and the compostion 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.

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

Appendices (need to check correct format/spelling for APA)

Appendix A: Self Assessment

Appendix B: Links of Interest

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