Six Degrees of Separation Explained

Six Degrees of Seperation is a phenomena discovered in the 1960’s, based on the belief that any one person in the world can be connected to any other person in the world (excluding third world countries) in six degrees of seperation or less. This phenomena was discovered (or rather proved) by a man named Stanley Milgram, who had performed an experiment called “the small world effect”. Milgram was given 680$ U.S. by the Laboratory of Social Relations (Harvard University) to test the idea that any two people could be connected by a short list of acquaintances. Milgram chose two cities: Wichita, Kansas and Omaha, Nebraska as his starting points. Here is how the experiment took place.

One volunteer in each city was chosen, and their job was to connect to one target individual. The two volunteers (for Wichita, a wife of a divinity school student in Cambridge, and for the Omaha study, a stockbroker in Boston) were given a document which identified the target person, but were strictly told not to contact the person directly unless they knew them. They were to mail the document to someone who was “more likely” to know the person. Every person who received the document was to write their name in a list, which would become the amount of links in the chain.

Milgram and his colleagues were astonished to learn that the first experiment conducted was over. The wife of the divinity school student received the document four days after it was initially given out. The chain consisted of a wheat farmer, a minister, the wife and the target. There was only 2 degrees of seperation between the farmer and the target. This same experiment was conducted several times, the number of people in the chain resulted in between 2-10. This chain was one of the shorter ones. 5 was the median and 6 was the most common.

“Six Degrees of Seperation” is a game you can play with yourself or with other people. Here is how it works, using an example. The point of the game is to get to a celebrity, politician, or any person in the world, for that matter.

-Always start with the target, then get to yourself.

1. Tom Cruise
2. Philip Seymour Hoffman (Mission Impossible 3) -> You can relate to the target by people they have met.
3. Ashton Kutcher (Butterfly Effect)-> Give how the preceding link has met this person.
4. Fred Stellini (met Ashton Kutcher)
5. You.

It is quite a simple game, and it really shows how everyone is connected somehow.

There are several things you have to know before you go connecting yourself to whoever you want to. This game does not work very well with third world countries, for they do not have much contact with us. This game only works with people from the 1800’s to present, so dont go trying to connect yourself with Pythagorus or King Tut.

Works Cited:
Scientific American’s Ask The Experts
The Velocity of Honey