Skye’s Bennington Thesis

Note: This is an HTML adaptation of the version of the thesis from 2001. Some of the ideas are a bit out of date. The original is avalible as a PDF (137 pages, 9.8mb).

Information transmission in social groups:
communication, networks, and interaction


Skye Bender de-Moll
May 2001

A Thesis submitted to the Faculty of Bennington College, Bennington, Vermont, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Arts.

Questions and comments are welcome.


I argue that for information transmission to occur there must be communicative contact between individuals. The patterns of contact then provide a set of outer limits for the extent of information spread. But an examination of a formalized communication process shows that the degree of information or knowledge transmitted may be related to the degree to which the communicants share similar bases of meanings and interpretive schemata. An individual’s cultural properties can be described as a set of schemata, frames, heuristics, historical meanings, and behaviors. Acts of communication among individuals lead to increasing similarity along these cultural dimensions, which may change the likelihood of future interactions, and the effectiveness of existing communicative relations. These longer time scale modifications of social structure often feed back into the process, causing systems to behave in a complex and possibly counter-intuitive manner. Ideally, the analysis of the formal properties and behaviors of such systems might shed some light on some of the observed trends and biases in human communication and the processes involved in the formation of social groups. Analyses of a study of self-report name recognition and communication networks among the incoming class at Bennington College are presented, and some implications discussed.


I. Introduction

II. Culture and Social Transmission in Hominids and Non-Humans

III. Adaptation and Models of Cultural Transmission

IV. Information, Uncertainty, and Meaning

V. Humans, Bias, and Communication Phenomena

VI. Networks and Social Structure

VII. Dynamics of Conformity and Association

VIII. Models and Definitions

IX. Bennington Social Network Study

X. Conclusion

Bibliography (partially annotated)

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