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The Momentum of Social Networks (Part 4): Doppler Shift

Written by: Bill Sherman on Friday, 15 August 2008, 6:17 AM

Fire Trucks and the Doppler Effect



When we hear a fire-truck’s siren, we hear the Doppler effect. The sound of the siren starts out high, then as the fire-truck approaches, the pitch decreases. At some moment, the truck will neither be approaching or receding from you. At that moment, the pitch will be equal to the siren’s stationary pitch.

Then, as the firetruck recedes, the pitch will continue to decrease–below the siren’s stationary pitch.

The change in pitch occurs because of the Doppler Effect. The siren’s wavelength is shortened while the truck approaches you, and the wavelength increases when the truck recedes from you.

According to astronomer James Dobson, “The reason the siren slides is because it doesn’t hit you.” That’s the core radial momentum. Here’s a representation of the Doppler Effect shown through the perspective of light. If the light source is moving away from you, the light is lengthened and “redshifted,” while if the light source is moving towards you, the waves become compressed and “blueshifted.”

Halos and Horns

So, you’re probably wondering. “Ok, Bill . . . what does the Doppler Shift have to do with social networking?” Well, we’ve discussed a component of radial momentum within social networks. You start out distant, move close, and separate (without either of you substantially altering your course or momentum).

Here’s the core of today’s thought:

  • While two people’s converge: they will perceive their similarities as larger than they actually are, and they will minimize the impact of the differences
  • While two people are diverge, they will perceive their differences as larger than they actually are, and they will minimize similarities.

I’m postulating that this effect is related to the “halo and horns” effects that have empirically well-documented by psychologists such as Edward Thorndike and Solomon Asch during the early 20th Century.

When Thorndike asked officers to rate soldiers, he discovered that soldiers who were rated positively received strongly-correlated positive ratings across all categories. Soldiers who received negative ratings expererienced strong correlations across negative categories.

Similarly, Asch found that when a person ascribes one positive characteristic to a person, they are likely to ascribe other positive characteristics to the same person.

Hence, halos and horns. It’s a useful theory in business and HR management, and it’s also useful to thinking about relationships.

Social Bonds are not Static

We’re constantly moving through life. People enter and leave our lives regularly. We should be aware of the potential for “redshift and blueshift” (or halo and horns) based on the momentum within the connection.

Sometimes people do actually pull us into their world, and we change our course in life. We create true long-term bonds. Those deserve a separate discussion, and we’ll look at them next as we explore the barycenter of relationships.

2 Responses to “The Momentum of Social Networks (Part 4): Doppler Shift”

  1. Tami Conner Chester Says:

    Bill,

    Thank you for the thought-provoking posts. I’ve followed your blog with great interest for the past few months. You’ve raised some interesting ideas around social capital and global relationships.

    This however – the tying of formula and scientific theory and principles to explain the complexity of human bonds – is fascinating.

    We’re constantly moving through life. People enter and leave our lives regularly. We should be aware of the potential for “redshift and blueshift” (or halo and horns) based on the momentum within the connection.

    In the workshops that I facilitate, I call this the ‘pebbles in the pond’ effect. We are all pebbles in the pond of life. As we are dropped (born) we begin making ripples. These ripples continue to extend out from our actions and choices and words as we age – sometimes intersecting with others’ ripples, on many different levels. The ripples affect ripples which create effects on other ripples which in turn interact and effect other ripples….etc, endlessly continuing, even after death. Morbid and comforting (who doesn’t want to leave a legacy ?) all at the same time.

    I also appreciate that you provide documentation that supports your theories – very refreshing and a switch from most folks who write about relationship from a purely emotional POV.

    Smiles –

    Tami

    August 15th, 2008 9:59 am

  2. The Momentum of Social Networks (Part 5): Barycenters | aha-moments Says:

    […] Me « The Momentum of Social Networks (Part 4): Doppler Shift Galaxies in Collision […]

    September 2nd, 2008 10:04 am

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