In traditional physics, the flow of energy is followed my motion, in the same vein in social physics, the flow of ideas precedes behavioral changes.
Would you consider yourself to be independent? You probably think you make your own decisions based on your own personal, rational thoughts.
Well, social physics has divulged that this is quite complicated – that we are not as independent as we thought. We are not as free as we think we are.
We are influenced by the behaviors of our peer group – which is not restricted to only close friends, mind you. This might also include mere passing acquaintances.
We often belong to many peer groups at once. For example, you could be soccer-loving (one peer group) in a book club (another) a research lab (yet another).
I found Automatic social learning (ASL) to be quite fascinating: just as direct contact is imperative for idea flow, indirect contact (what we observe people doing) is also as important. Remember that particular verbiage you keep using, only to find out it’s was because some friends were using it? That’s ASL: you picked them up unconsciously/subconsciously. Afterall, there are social disincentives for being starkly different from others in the environment — even if you are doing the right thing in some cases.
The bottom line:
Vet your milieu and explore for diverse and “healthy ideas” to drive good behavioral changes.
In fact the latter is why am so big on books.