You Know More People Than You Think

ByABC News via via logo

N E W   Y O R K, Jan. 23, 2002 -- That friend of yours who has 300 phone numbers listed in her PDA might be more than a social-butterfly — she could be a "Connector."

What makes someone a Connector? According to Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, a connector is someone who knows an impressive number of people.

"There are a small number of people in any group, in any community who knows many more people than the average people knows," Gladwell said on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America. "They make the phone calls, they are connected to the different worlds and they make a big difference."

In his book Gladwell explores ideas about how products, messages and behaviors spread like viruses do. Connectors, according to Gladwell, are individuals who help to extend information and trends throughout our society.

Gladwell sites Paul Revere as an example of a classic Connector. "Paul Revere went for his ride and so did somebody else — but he wasn't a Connector," Gladwell said. The townspeople of Boston reacted to Revere's warning because he was an incredibly popular and social guy who knew a lot of people, he said.

How can you pin down the Connectors of the world? Gladwell relies on a simple test of his own design.

Gladwell gives individuals from different groups a list of random surnames from the phonebook. Each person gets one point for every surname they spot that belongs to someone they know.

Gladwell has given this test to at least a dozen groups. One was a freshman World Civilizations class at City College in New York City. The students were all in their late teens or early 20s, some of them recent immigrants to America. The average score in that class was 20.96, meaning that the average person in the class knew about 21 people with the same last names as the people on the list.

Gladwell also gave the test to a group of health educators in their 40s and 50s at a conference in Princeton, N.J. Their average score was 39. When he gave the test to a relatively random sample of his own friends, mostly journalists and professionals in their late 20s and 30s, the average score was 41.

The most surprising outcome for all of his tests have been the enormous range, said Gladwell. In the college class, the low score was 2 and the high score was 95. Among his group of friends, the low score was 9 and the high score was 118. At the meeting of health educators — which featured a highly homogenous group of people of similar age, education and income — the lowest score was 16 and the highest was 108.

These tests prove, said Gladwell, that in every section of society there are a few people with the extraordinary ability to make a lot of friends and acquaintances. These people are "Connectors."

Is the Good Morning America family connected? Charlie Gibson, Diane Sawyer, Tony Perkins and Antonio Mora took the test and their scores are listed below.

Perkins: 63 pointsGibson: 95 pointsMora: 126 pointsSawyer: 213 points

Sawyer beat out a tailor in Boston, who scored 175, for the highest number Gladwell's ever seen. "She is astonishingly social," Gladwell said.

Are you a Connector? Simply go down the list of nearly 250 surnames, all taken at random from the Manhattan phone book, and give yourself a point every time you see a surname that is shared by someone you know. You don't have to know them well and multiple names do count. For instance, if you happen to know three people with the name Smith — you'll land three points. You might want to jot down your points on a pad so that you don't lose track while going through the list of names.

Your score on this test should roughly represent how social you are. If it's rather low, you should feel lucky that you have a few friends and some spare time left for yourself.

An average score falls between 35 and 70. If you've scored over a 70, you're a Connector.


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