“Milgram’s startling conclusion turns out to rest on scanty evidence,” Kleinfeld writes. “The idea of ‘six degrees of separation’ may, in fact, be plain wrong — the academic equivalent of an urban myth.”
She continues: “Milgram’s Small World Study has slipped away from its scientific moorings and entered the world of imagination. The small world has become part of the intellectual furniture of educated people. While Milgram applied the notion of ‘six degrees of separation’ to the American population, others apply it to the entire world.”
Moreover, two attempts by Milgram to replicate the findings of that study were never published because chain-completion rates were so low. Kleinfeld, who writes of her disturbing findings in the current issue of Psychology Today, also says that people who took part in the study were not random at all, but likely to be affluent and well-connected anyway.
Kleinfeld, who rejects the idea of a small world, sums up: “We live in a lumpy world, rather like a badly cooked bowl of oatmeal. Some people, who are more apt to be high status, high income and white, are wellconnected. Other people, who are likely to be lower status and black, are not. The empirical research does not suggest a world where we are all connected, separated by only “six degrees of separation.” [SciTech Daily]