Are you a Connector?

In Chapter Two of The Tipping Point, I talk about the central role that three personality types–that I call Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen–play in social epidemics. In this excerpt, I describe a simple test that anyone can take to tell whether they fall into the first of those categories, the Connector.

What makes someone a Connector? The first–and most obvious–criterion is that Connectors know lots of people. They are the kinds of people who know everyone. All of us know someone like this. But I don’t think that we spend a lot of time thinking about the importance of these kinds of people. I’m not even sure that most of us really believe that the kind of person who knows everyone really knows everyone. But they do. There is a simple way to show this. In the paragraph below is a list of around 250 surnames, all taken at random from the Manhattan phone book. Go down the list and give yourself a point every time you see a surname that is shared by someone you know. (The definition of “know” here is very broad. It is if you sat down next to that person on a train, you would know their name if they introduced themselves to you, and they would know your name.) Multiple names count. If the name is Johnson, in other words, and you know three Johnsons, you get three points. The idea is that your score on this test should roughly represent how social you are. It’s a simple way of estimating how many friends and acquaintances you have.

Algazi, Alvarez, Alpern, Ametrano, Andrews, Aran, Arnstein, Ashford, Bailey Ballout, Bamberger, Baptista, Barr, Barrows, Baskerville, Bassiri, Bell, Bokgese, Brandao, Bravo, Brooke, Brightman, Billy, Blau, Bohen, Bohn, Borsuk, Brendle, Butler, Calle, Cantwell, Carrell, Chinlund, Cirker, Cohen, Collas, Couch, Callegher, Calcaterra, Cook, Carey, Cassell, Chen, Chung, Clarke, Cohn, Carton, Crowley, Curbelo, Dellamanna, Diaz, Dirar, Duncan, Dagostino, Delakas, Dillon, Donaghey, Daly, Dawson, Edery, Ellis, Elliott, Eastman, Easton, Famous, Fermin, Fialco, Finklestein, Farber, Falkin, Feinman, Friedman, Gardner, Gelpi, Glascock, Grandfield, Greenbaum Greenwood, Gruber, Garil, Goff, Gladwell, Greenup, Gannon, Ganshaw, Garcia, Gennis, Gerard, Gericke, Gilbert, Glassman, Glazer, Gomendio, Gonzalez, Greenstein, Guglielmo, Gurman, Haberkorn, Hoskins, Hussein, Hamm, Hardwick, Harrell, Hauptman, Hawkins, Henderson, Hayman, Hibara, Hehmann, Herbst, Hedges, Hogan, Hoffman, Horowitz, Hsu, Huber, Ikiz, Jaroschy, Johann, Jacobs, Jara, Johnson, Kassel, Keegan, Kuroda, Kavanau, Keller, Kevill, Kiew, Kimbrough, Kline, Kossoff, Kotzitzky, Kahn, Kiesler, Kosser, Korte, Leibowitz, Lin, Liu, Lowrance, Lundh, Laux, Leifer, Leung, Levine, Leiw, Lockwood, Logrono, Lohnes, Lowet, Laber, Leonardi, Marten, McLean, Michaels, Miranda, Moy, Marin, Muir, Murphy, Marodon, Matos, Mendoza, Muraki, Neck, Needham, Noboa, Null, O’Flynn, O’Neill, Orlowski, Perkins, Pieper, Pierre, Pons, Pruska, Paulino, Popper, Potter, Purpura, Palma, Perez, Portocarrero, Punwasi, Rader, Rankin, Ray, Reyes, Richardson, Ritter, Roos, Rose, Rosenfeld, Roth, Rutherford, Rustin, Ramos, Regan, Reisman, Renkert, Roberts, Rowan, Rene, Rosario, Rothbart, Saperstein, Schoenbrod, Schwed, Sears, Statosky, Sutphen, Sheehy, Silverton, Silverman, Silverstein, Sklar, Slotkin, Speros, Stollman, Sadowski, Schles, Shapiro, Sigdel, Snow, Spencer, Steinkol, Stewart, Stires, Stopnik, Stonehill, Tayss, Tilney, Temple, Torfield, Townsend, Trimpin, Turchin, Villa, Vasillov, Voda, Waring, Weber, Weinstein, Wang, Wegimont, Weed, Weishaus.

I have given this test to at least a dozen groups of people. One was a freshman World Civilizations class at City College in Manhattan. The students were all in their late teens or early twenties, many of them recent immigrants to American, of middle and lower income. The average score in that class was 20.96, meaning that the average person in the class knew 21 people with the same last names as the people on my list. I also gave the test to a group of health educators and academics at a conference in Princeton New Jersey. This group was mostly in their 40′s and 50′s, largely white, highly educated–many had PhD’s–and predominatly upper income. Their average score was 39. Then I gave the test to a relatively random sample of my friends and acquaintances, mostly journalists and professionals in their late 20′s and 30′s. The average score was 41. These results shouldn’t be all that surprising. College students don’t have as wide a circle of acquaintances as people in their 40′s. It makes sense that between the age of 20 and 40 the number of people you know should roughly double, and that upper-income professionals should know more people than lower-income immigrants. In every group there was also quite a range between the highest and the lowest-scorers. That makes sense too, I think. Real estate salesmen know more people than computer hackers. What was surprising, though, was how enormous that range was. In the college class, the low score was 2 and the high score was 95. In my random sample, the low score was 9 and the high score was 118. Even at the conference in Princeton, which was a highly homogenous group of people of similar age, education and income–who were all, with a few exceptions, in the same profession–the range was enormous. The lowest score was 16. The highest score was 108. All told, I have given the test to about 400 people. Of those, there were two dozen or so scores under 20, and eight over 90, and four more over 100. The other surprising thing is that I found high scorers in every social group I looked at. The scores of the students at City College were less, on average, than adult scores. But even in that group there are people whose social circle is four or five times the size of other people’s. Sprinkled among every walk of life, in other words, are a handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances. They are Connectors.