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App Stats: VanderWeele on "Sensitivity Analysis for Contagion Effects in 
Social Networks"

We hope you can join us this Wednesday, November 9, 2011 for the Applied 
Statistics Workshop. Tyler VanderWeele, Associate Professor of 
Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, will give a 
presentation entitled "Sensitivity Analysis for Contagion Effects in 
Social Networks". A light lunch will be served at 12 pm and the talk will 
begin at 12.15.

"Sensitivity Analysis for Contagion Effects in Social Networks"
Tyler VanderWeele
Harvard School of Public Health
CGIS K354 (1737 Cambridge St.)
Wednesday, November 9th, 2011 12.00 pm

The paper is available here.


     Analyses of social network data have suggested that obesity, smoking, 
happiness, and loneliness all travel through social networks. Individuals 
exert ''contagion effects'' on one another through social ties and 
association. These analyses have come under critique because of the 
possibility that homophily from unmeasured factors may explain these 
statistical associations and because similar findings can be obtained when 
the same methodology is applied to height, acne, and headaches, for which 
the conclusion of contagion effects seems somewhat less plausible. The 
author uses sensitivity analysis techniques to assess the extent to which 
supposed contagion effects for obesity, smoking, happiness, and loneliness 
might be explained away by homophily or confounding and the extent to 
which the critique using analysis of data on height, acne, and headaches 
is relevant. Sensitivity analyses suggest that contagion effects for 
obesity and smoking cessation are reasonably robust to possible latent 
homophily or environmental confounding; those for happiness and loneliness 
are somewhat less so. Supposed effects for height, acne, and headaches are 
all easily explained away by latent homophily and confounding. The 
methodology that has been used in past studies for contagion effects in 
social networks, when used in conjunction with sensitivity analysis, may 
prove useful in establishing social influence for various behaviors and 
states. The sensitivity analysis approach can be used to address the 
critique of latent homophily as a possible explanation of associations 
interpreted as contagion effects.

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