James H. Fowler

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James H. Fowler
James fowler at poptech 2009.jpg
Fowler at Poptech in 2009
Born (1970-02-18) February 18, 1970 (age 53)
Alma materHarvard University
(1992, 2001, 2003)
Yale University (1997)
Known forObesity contagiousness
Happiness contagiousness
Genes and Social Networks
Colbert bump
Scientific career
FieldsSocial network analysis
Political participation
InstitutionsUniversity of California, San Diego
University of California, Davis

James H. Fowler (born February 18, 1970)[1] is an American social scientist specializing in social networks, cooperation, political participation, and genopolitics (the study of the genetic basis of political behavior). He is currently Professor of Medical Genetics in the School of Medicine and Professor of Political Science in the Division of Social Science at the University of California, San Diego. He was named a 2010 Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation.[2]


Fowler earned a bachelor's degree from Harvard College in 1992, a master's degree in International Relations from Yale University in 1997, and a Ph.D. in Government from the Harvard University in 2003. He was also a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador from 1992 to 1994. In 2010, he was named by Foreign Policy magazine to its list of top global thinkers.[3]


Fowler's research centers on social networks.[4] He is best known for his studies of the social spread of obesity,[5][6] smoking,[7] and happiness[8][9] in the Framingham Heart Study, but he has also studied the network of legislative cosponsorships in the U.S. Congress[10][11] and the network of U.S. Supreme Court precedents.[12][13]

Studies by Nicholas A. Christakis and Fowler suggested a variety of individuals' attributes like obesity,[14] smoking cessation,[15] and happiness[16] rather than being individualistic, are causally correlated by contagion mechanisms that transmit these behaviors over long distances within social networks.[17] A debate over the statistical models used to establish these three degrees of influence findings ensued, but subsequent studies have found evidence of their central claims about behavioral influence and contagion.[18][19][20][21]

In addition to his research on social networks, Fowler has become known for his work on genopolitics, showing that genes influence voting and other forms of political participation.[22][23][24] Fowler used twin studies of voter turnout in Los Angeles and the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to establish that the decision to vote in the United States has very strong heritability.[25] He has also identified three genes that are associated with voter turnout and partisan attachment, specifically those regulating the serotonin and dopamine systems in the brain via the production of monoamine oxidase, 5HTT, and DRD2.[26][27]

More recently, he has shown evidence that social networks have a partly genetic basis.[28] In 2010, he published a paper regarding the use of social networks as 'sensors' for forecasting epidemics.[29]

In other research, Fowler is known for his theoretical and experimental work on egalitarianism[30][31] and the evolution of cooperation,[32][33] with related work on altruism, overconfidence,[34] and political participation.[35]

Fowler's newest research focuses on Facebook friendship as a predictor of voter mobilization, and the use of the social network medium, to mobilize voters in American elections. Based on a large manipulation of friendship cues in the Facebook social network, Fowler demonstrates that being presented with indications of friends having voted is a strong predictor of individual voting.


In September 2009, Little, Brown & Co. published Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives by Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler.[36] Connected draws on previously published and unpublished studies, including the Framingham Heart Study and makes several new conclusions about the influence of social networks on human health and behavior.[37] In Connected, they put forward their "three degrees of influence" rule about human behavior, which theorizes that each person's individual social influence stretches three degrees before it fades out.[38][39]

The Colbert Report[edit]

On February 28, 2008, the Los Angeles Times published an op-ed that summarized Fowler's research showing that Democratic candidates who come on The Colbert Report receive 44% more in campaign donations in the first 30 days after appearing on the show.[40][41] Colbert pointed out the op-ed on his March 3, 2008 show. Fowler also appeared during the Threatdown on his December 10, 2008 show, describing his work on the spread of happiness in social networks, and again on the January 7th, 2010 show to discuss the sociological impact of social networking.

Selected publications[edit]

  • Fowler, James H. and Hill, Seth and Levin, Remy and Obradovich, Nicholas (13 April 2020). "The Effect of Stay-at-Home Orders on COVID-19 Infections in the United States (4/13/2020)". doi:10.2139/ssrn.3576826. S2CID 219073082. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

The Framingham Heart Study Social Network

Genes and Politics

Genes and Social Networks

Experimental Studies of Cooperation and Egalitarianism

Evolutionary Models

Altruism and Political Participation

Legislator Social Networks

Voter Social Networks

Network of Supreme Court Precedents


  1. ^ "Fowler, James H., 1970-". Library of Congress. Retrieved 5 August 2014. ecip t.p. (James H. Fowler) data view (b. 2/18/1970)
  2. ^ http://www.gf.org/fellows/16759-james-fowler[dead link]
  3. ^ ""Foreign Policy Magazine"". Archived from the original on 2014-12-02. Retrieved 2017-03-07.
  4. ^ "Seed Salon: Albert-László Barabási and James Fowler". Seed. February 2009. Archived from the original on 2009-01-29.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  5. ^ "Are Friends And Family Making You Fat?". CBS Evening News. July 25, 2007.
  6. ^ Kolata, Gina (July 25, 2007). "Study Says Obesity Can Be Contagious". New York Times. Retrieved May 5, 2010.
  7. ^ Kolata, Gina (May 22, 2008). "Study Finds Big Social Factor in Quitting Smoking". New York Times. Retrieved May 5, 2010.
  8. ^ "Happiness is Having Happy Friends". NBC Nightly News. December 5, 2008. Archived from the original on December 7, 2003.
  9. ^ Belluck, Pam (December 5, 2008). "Strangers May Cheer You Up, Study Says". New York Times. Retrieved May 5, 2010.
  10. ^ "Inside the Beltway". Washington Times. April 13, 2005.
  11. ^ "In Session: Congress". Washington Post. April 11, 2005.
  12. ^ "Primary Sources". The Atlantic. December 2005.
  13. ^ "Statistical Modeling: The Wisdom of Hercules". The Economist. August 25, 2005.
  14. ^ Christakis, Nicholas A.; Fowler, James H. (2007). "The Spread of Obesity in a Large Social Network over 32 Years". The New England Journal of Medicine. 357 (4): 370–379. doi:10.1056/NEJMsa066082. PMID 17652652.
  15. ^ Christakis, Nicholas A.; Fowler, James H. (2008). "The Collective Dynamics of Smoking in a Large Social Network". The New England Journal of Medicine. 358 (21): 2249–2258. doi:10.1056/NEJMsa0706154. PMC 2822344. PMID 18499567.
  16. ^ Christakis, Nicholas A.; Fowler, James H. (2008). "Dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network: longitudinal analysis over 20 years in the Framingham Heart Study". British Medical Journal. 337 (337): a2338. doi:10.1136/bmj.a2338. PMC 2600606. PMID 19056788.
  17. ^ Christakis, Nicholas A.; Fowler, James H. (2009). Connected:The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives. Little, Brown and Co. ISBN 978-0316036146.
  18. ^ Centola, Damon (2010). "The Spread of Behavior in an Online Social Network Experiment". Science. 329 (5995): 1194–1197. Bibcode:2010Sci...329.1194C. CiteSeerX doi:10.1126/science.1185231. PMID 20813952. S2CID 3265637.
  19. ^ Centola, Damon (2011). "An experimental study of homophily in the adoption of health behavior". Science. 334 (6060): 1269–1272. Bibcode:2011Sci...334.1269C. doi:10.1126/science.1207055. PMID 22144624. S2CID 44322077.
  20. ^ Fowler, James H.; Christakis, Nicholas A. (2010). "Cooperative behavior cascades in human social networks". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 107 (12): 5334–5338. arXiv:0908.3497. Bibcode:2010PNAS..107.5334F. doi:10.1073/pnas.0913149107. PMC 2851803. PMID 20212120.
  21. ^ Aral, Sinan; Walker, Dylan (2011). "Creating Social Contagion Through Viral Product Design: A Randomized Trial of Peer Influence in Networks". Management Science. 57 (9): 1623–1639. doi:10.1287/mnsc.1110.1421. S2CID 10922392.
  22. ^ Biuso, Emily (December 12, 2008). "Eighth Annual Year in Ideas: Genopolitics". New York Times Magazine. Retrieved May 5, 2010.
  23. ^ "The Biology of Ideology". Wall Street Journal. May 27, 2008.
  24. ^ "It's the Genes Stupid". New York Times. Sep 4, 2008.
  25. ^ "The Genetics of Politics". Scientific American. November 2007.
  26. ^ "Are Politics Rooted in Your Genes?". CNN. February 11, 2008.
  27. ^ "It's the Genes, Stupid". New York Times. May 27, 2008.
  28. ^ Shishkin, Philip (January 27, 2009). "Genes and the Friends You Make". Wall Street Journal.
  29. ^ Christakis NA, Fowler JH (2010). "Social Network Sensors for Early Detection of Contagious Outbreaks". PLOS ONE. 5 (9): e12948. arXiv:1004.4792. Bibcode:2010PLoSO...512948C. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0012948. PMC 2939797. PMID 20856792.
  30. ^ Highfield, Roger (12 April 2007). "The Robin Hood impulse". The Daily Telegraph. London. p. 8. Retrieved May 5, 2010.[dead link]
  31. ^ "Making the Paper: James Fowler". Nature. 446 (7137): xiii. 12 April 2007. doi:10.1038/7137xiiia. S2CID 49907006.
  32. ^ "Why We Need Nosy Parkers". U.S. News & World Report. June 13, 2005.
  33. ^ "Groups Unite in Dislike of Freeloaders". National Public Radio. April 6, 2006.
  34. ^ "Evolution of Narcissism: Why We're Overconfident, and Why It Works". National Geographic. September 14, 2011.
  35. ^ "Political Scientists Convene to Probe and Predict U.S. Elections". Chronicle of Higher Education. September 17, 2004.
  36. ^ Stossel, Scott (October 4, 2009). "You and Your Friend's Friend's Friends". New York Times Book Review. Retrieved May 5, 2010.
  37. ^ http://www.connectedthebook.com/ "Connected The Book" Official Website
  38. ^ "The Buddy System: How Medical Data Revealed Secret to Health and Happiness". Wired. October 2009.
  39. ^ Thompson, Clive (September 14, 2009). "Is Happiness Catching?". New York Times Magazine. Retrieved May 5, 2010.
  40. ^ Fowler, James H. (February 28, 2008). "Sharing the wealthiness". Los Angeles Times.
  41. ^ Fowler, James H. (July 2008). "The Colbert Bump in Campaign Donations: More Truthful than Truthy" (PDF). PS Political Science & Politics. 41 (3): 533–539. doi:10.1017/s1049096508080712. S2CID 153952070. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-09-04. Retrieved 2008-03-04.

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