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Social Networks and Sex Differences

By cpappas Nov 18, 2008 1129 Words
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Social Networks & Sex Differences

Caley Pappas

Carleton University

Assignment 1, PSYC 2001E, Professor Thorngate

100747408

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Abstract
The present study investigated possible sex differences in social networks by analyzing an archival measure: names in cell phone contact lists. A piece of paper was circulated around a second year psychology course at Carleton University. 70 females and 26 males we asked to record their sex, the number of male friends they had on their cell phone contact lists, the number of female friends they had on their cell phone contact lists, and the number of others (family, public services, etc.) they had on their cell phone contact lists. The median declared that females had 7 more contacts in their cell phones then males did. While on average, males had 2 more male friend than females did; in contrast, females had 7 more female friends then males did. These results support many research done in social networks. For example, the theory of sex cleavage; tendency to associate with members of one’s own sex.

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Social Networks and Sex Differences
As humans, it is natural to form friendships with other people. We establish these friendships as a means of support and stability in our lives. These people help us to solve problems and we often call them in time of need. During this day and age, it is quite common for people to carry cell phones, therefore we thought it justifiable to use the number of friends in cell phone contact lists as an archival measure of their social networks. Some people have small friendship networks; others have large friendship networks. The purpose of my research was to determine the relationship between people’s sex and the size of their social networks.

Social networks and their size can be defined in many different ways. Simon (2007), for example, extracted data from 21,670 members’ profile pages on My Space (social networking website). They sent out a questionnaire to all the members and had them assign which people listed as ‘friends’ on their profile page, were actually close friends, acquaintances, or strangers. The analysis found 50% of females’ friends were actually close friends, while 35% of males’ friends were actually close friends. The analysis confirmed previous findings about social networking, for example that “female members tend to be more interested in friendship” thus, had more friends than males did.

An earlier study; Byrant (1985) reported that school-aged girls tended to interact with more peers than boys did, as well as tended to interact with more adults. Perhaps (in the first study mentioned) it is explained by all the participants as being social people; considering they all have profiles on a social networking site. In the second study mentioned, the participants were all young and in grade school. It is still unclear whether we can replicate these findings for an older population. It is my intent to investigate any sex differences in a university-aged sample. 4

When deciding on what to use to measure the size of social networks, I used cell phones. By casual observation, a lot of people have one. Perhaps its not justifiable to use tools like My Space because not everyone uses it. Cell phones have a feature (contact list) that allows them to save phone numbers to it. Assuming that a lot of these contacts are friends, counting these numbers would serve as a good indicator of social network size. I predicted that females would have more friends than males. Method

Participants
There were 26 males and 70 females that participated in the study. All were members of a second year Psychology course at an eastern Canadian university. Two additional females and four males were also in the course but without a cell phone, therefore unable to participate. Procedure

On a circulated piece of paper, participants were asked to record: (1) their sex, (2) the number of their male friends, (3) the number of their female friends, and (4) the number of others in their cell phone contact lists. The recordings were handed into the instructor for data entry. Results

In order to determine whether males and females differ in the size of their social networks (friends & others), I summed up the median of male friends, the median of female friends, and the median of others. In general, females reported 6 more total contacts on their cell phone then males did. This result can be attributed to females knowing more people then males, thus supporting the hypothesis that females have more friends then males.

Although, the sex differences aren’t extensive, I decided to look at whether males and

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females differ in the size of their male friendship networks, I looked at the average number of male friends for both males and females. On average, I found that males had 2 more male friends then females did. In contrast, when determining whether males and females differ in the size of their females friendship networks, I looked at the average number of female friends for both males and females. On average, I found that females had 7 more female friends then males did. These results can be explained by the sex cleavage theory; tendency to associate with one’s own sex. Discussion

Recall that the purpose of my study was to determine the relationship between people’s sex and the size of their social networks. By casual observation, most people have cell phones. The number of contacts in cell phones was used to measure the size of social networks.

A sheet of paper was circulated around a second year psychology classroom in a Canadian university. Everyone was asked to record their sex, the number of male friends, the number of female friends, and the number of others on their cell phone contact lists. Females reported more contacts on their lists then males did. This result supported my hypothesis that females had more friends then males. I also found that females prefer female friends while males prefer male friends. These results support the theory of sex cleavage; the tendency to associate with one’s own sex. My results also support the earlier studies mentioned (Simon, 2007; Bryant 1985) in that, females would have more friends then males.

Perhaps a larger sample size would help better represent the population. Any further research could be done by studying first year, second year, third year, fourth year, and graduate students in all universities across Canada.

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References
Bryant (1985).Deborah Belle (1989). Children’s Social Networks and Social Supports. Family Relationships, Bryant (1985): Wiley Series on Personality Processes.

Simon (2007). Social Networks, Gender and Friending: An Analysis of My Space Member Profiles. Retrieved October 13, 2008 from: http://www.scit.wlv.ac.uk/~cm1993/papers/MySpace_ d.doc.

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