Local researchers seek participants to understand how friends shape our thinking

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE)- There’s a saying, “Show me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.” Does it hold any truth? That’s what local researchers are trying to solve.

A big research project is in the works in Santa Fe to find out if your friends influence your ideas on issues like politics, health, money and other topics.

“Asking people about what their friends think can help us predict what they will do themselves in the future,” said Mirta Galesic, Professor of Human Social Dynamics at the Santa Fe Institute.

She and a group of fellow researchers conducted a poll ahead of the 2016 presidential election. In it, they found votes could be better predicted by who the voters said their friends were going to vote for, versus their own voting intentions.

“Today more than ever, that the source of information really matters for whether people are going to accept a novel piece of information or not. The information can be factual and well supported, but people are not going to believe it or accept it if most of their friends think otherwise,” said Galesic.

Who has time to sit down and chat with friends these days? Galesic says that’s where social media might come in. She wanted to know how big of a role the online world plays.

“What is more important the flesh and blood, face-to-face interactions or interactions over Facebook? We will ask them for each friend, ‘Do you mostly have interactions face-to-face or online?’ and this will help us to determine really what’s more important,” said Galesic.

Now, she’s wanting to take the research even further and cover more issues like science, health, and the environment.

This time, she’s also asking for individuals and a few of their friends to participate in the “SciFriends” pilot research project.

“We will just know who is whose friend and will be able to compare answers and see whether, for instance, if my friend changes their mind in the previous study wave, how likely is it that I will change my mind in the same direction in the next study wave,” said Galesic.

Overall, Galesic hopes what comes from the project could help solve issues within education, politics and even finances.

If you want to participate, you’ll get a survey that should only take a few minutes to complete. Galesic says all answers will be kept confidential and anonymous. People who participate in the study will also be compensated.

The pilot project is being funded by the National Science Foundation.

For more information, click here.

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