An Experimental Study of the Small World Problem
Arbitrarily selected individuals (N=296) in Nebraska and Boston are asked to generate acquaintance chains to a target person in Massachusetts, employing "the small world method" (Milgram, 1967). Sixty-four chains reach the target person. Within this group the mean number of intermediaries between starters and targets is 5.2. Boston starting chains reach the target person with fewer intermediaries than those starting in Nebraska; subpopulations in the Nebraska group do not differ among themselves. The funneling of chains through sociometric "stars" is noted, with 48 per cent of the chains passing through three persons before reaching the target. Applications of the method to studies of large scale social structure are discussed.