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James H. Fowler

James Fowler at Poptech, October 24, 2009.
Source: Kris Krüg, flickr.
Born February 18, 1970
Residence United States
Citizenship American
Fields Social network analysis
Political participation
Institutions University of California, San Diego
University of California, Davis
Alma mater Harvard University
(1992, 2001, 2003)
Yale University (1997)
Known for Obesity contagiousness
Happiness contagiousness
Genes and Social Networks
Colbert bump

James H. Fowler (born February 18, 1970) is an American political scientist specializing in social networks, cooperation, political participation, and genopolitics (the study of the genetic basis of political behavior). He is currently Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of California, San Diego and an affiliate in the Center for Wireless and Population Health Systems.



Fowler earned a bachelor's degree from Harvard College in 1992, a master's degree in International Relations from Yale University in 1997, and a Ph.D. in Government from the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 2003. He was also a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador from 1992 to 1994.


Fowler's research centers on social networks.[1] He is best known for his studies of the social spread of obesity[2][3], smoking[4], and happiness[5][6] in the Framingham Heart Study, but he has also studied the network of legislative cosponsorships in the U.S. Congress[7][8] and the network of U.S. Supreme Court precedents.[9][10].

In addition to his research on social networks, Fowler has become known for his work on genopolitics, showing that genes influence voting and other forms of political participation.[11][12][13] Fowler used twin studies of voter turnout in Los Angeles and the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to establish that the decision to vote in the United States has very strong heritability.[14] He has also identified three genes that are associated with voter turnout and partisan attachment, specifically those regulating the serotonin and dopamine systems in the brain via the production of monoamine oxidase, 5HTT, and DRD2.[15][16]

More recently, he has shown evidence that social networks have a partly genetic basis.[17]

In other research, Fowler is known for his theoretical and experimental work on egalitarianism[18][19] and the evolution of cooperation,[20][21] with related work on altruism and political participation.[22]


In September 2009, Little, Brown & Co. published Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives by Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler.[23] Connected draws on previously published and unpublished studies, including the Framingham Heart Study and makes several new conclusions about the influence of social networks on human health and behavior.[24] In Connected, they put forward their "Three Degrees of Influence" rule about human behavior, which theorizes that each person's individual social influence stretches three degrees before it fades out.[25][26]

The Colbert Report

On February 28, 2008, the Los Angeles Times published an op-ed that summarized Fowler's research showing that Democratic candidates who come on The Colbert Report receive 44% more in campaign donations in the first 30 days after appearing on the show.[27][28] Colbert pointed out the op-ed on his March 3, 2008 show. Fowler also appeared during the Threatdown on his December 10, 2008 show, describing his work on the spread of happiness in social networks, and again on the 7th of December 2010 to discuss the sociological impact of social networking.

Selected Publications

The Framingham Heart Study Social Network

Genes and Politics

Genes and Social Networks

Experimental Studies of Cooperation and Egalitarianism

Evolutionary Models

Altruism and Political Participation

Legislator Social Networks

Voter Social Networks

Network of Supreme Court Precedents


  1. ^ "Seed Salon: Albert-László Barabási and James Fowler". Seed. February 2009.  
  2. ^ "Are Friends And Family Making You Fat?". CBS Evening News. July 25, 2007.  
  3. ^ "Study Says Obesity Can Be Contagious". New York Times. July 25, 2007.  
  4. ^ "Study Finds Big Social Factor in Quitting Smoking". New York Times. May 22, 2008.  
  5. ^ "Happiness is Having Happy Friends". NBC Nightly News. December 5, 2008.  
  6. ^ "Strangers May Cheer You Up, Study Says". New York Times. December 5, 2008.  
  7. ^ "Inside the Beltway". Washington Times. April 13, 2005.  
  8. ^ "In Session: Congress". Washington Post. April 11, 2005.  
  9. ^ "Primary Sources". The Atlantic. December 2005.  
  10. ^ "Statistical Modeling: The Wisdom of Hercules". The Economist. August 25, 2005.  
  11. ^ "Eighth Annual Year in Ideas: Genopolitics". New York Times Magazine. December 12, 2008.  
  12. ^ "The Biology of Ideology". Wall Street Journal. May 27, 2008.  
  13. ^ "It's the Genes Stupid". New York Times. Sept 4, 2008.  
  14. ^ "The Genetics of Politics". Scientific American. November 2007.  
  15. ^ "Are Politics Rooted in Your Genes?". CNN. February 11, 2008.  
  16. ^ "It’s the Genes, Stupid". New York Times. May 27, 2008.  
  17. ^ "Genes and the Friends You Make". Wall Street Journal. January 27, 2009.  
  18. ^ "The Robin Hood impulse". The Daily Telegraph: p. 8. 12 April 2007.  
  19. ^ "Making the Paper: James Fowler". Nature 446 (7137): xiii. 12 April 2007. doi:10.1038/7137xiiia.  
  20. ^ "Why We Need Nosy Parkers". U.S. News and World Report. June 13, 2005.  
  21. ^ "Groups Unite in Dislike of Freeloaders". National Public Radio. April 6, 2006.  
  22. ^ "Political Scientists Convene to Probe and Predict U.S. Elections". Chronicle of Higher Education. September 17, 2004.  
  23. ^ "You and Your Friend’s Friend’s Friends". New York Times Book Reivew. October 4, 2009.  
  24. ^ "Connected The Book" Official Website
  25. ^ "The Buddy System: How Medical Data Revealed Secret to Health and Happiness". Wired. October 2009.  
  26. ^ "Is Happiness Catching?". New York Times Magazine. September 14, 2009.  
  27. ^ Fowler, James H. (February 28, 2008). "Sharing the wealthiness". Los Angeles Times.,0,1569470.story.  
  28. ^ Fowler, James H. (July 2008). "The Colbert Bump in Campaign Donations: More Truthful than Truthy" (PDF). PS: Political Science & Politics 41 (3): 533–539.  

External links



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