By Nick Miller
Researchers asked 160 high school students in New York to identify their close friends, regular friends and acquaintances, and then used the data to draw connections between friend circles and students' grade point averages, attendance and disciplinary actions, according to an article in Education Week.
The study, "Spread of Academic Success in a High School Social Network," used a social network approach to identify the relationships between students and their social circles. The study’s results showed that students were more likely to improve their GPA if they had friends who got good grades. Students who started with high GPAs who were friends with students with lower GPAs, were likely to see a decrease in their grades.
Co-author of the study Hiroki Sayama, said in the article,“Psychologically, it makes sense, because if you are working to improve your grades, subconsciously you might see smarter students as your friends."
However, the study also showed that students’ grades won’t be affected by their really close friends. The article stated, ”Close friends—the ones most likely to be chosen based on personality similarities—were less strongly related to changes in a student's GPA than were students considered friends, but not as close.”
The whole study was based on the idea of social contagion, and how it can be used to conduct research. Just think of germs. Germs can spread from person to person especially when they are close together.Likewise, students are more likely to pick up behaviors from those who are close to them. Social networking can be used to see the effects of social contagion in a research study like this.
However, as a high school student myself, I do think that when analyzing this study, people should know that high school relationships change quickly as time progresses. Therefore, scientists need to look at all aspects of friendships, including the length of time the friendship lasts. Over the course of my high school years, I’ve had a lot of friends that came and went. I don’t know why we became friends -- but I do like to find people who are academically focused, help me when I need help, and like to get good grades.