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Bullying & Social Networks

January 12, 2016

Enlisting the help of influential students to reduce bullying and other conflict in schools.



Making tolerance in school normal. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

A small number of influential students can greatly reduce bullying and other  school conflict, according to Princeton psychologist Elizabeth Levy Paluck.

ELIZABETH LEVY PALUCK (Princeton University):

We call those students our “social referents”, because students refer to them when they’re trying to figure out what’s normal at the school.


In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, she and her colleagues report surveying students at fifty-six schools about their social connections and identifying these social referents. With help from the researchers, the students crafted anti-bullying messages and used social networks, posters and other methods to spread them. The result was a thirty percent reduction in school detentions and other disciplinary actions, compared to schools using more standard techniques. The team is sharing the work widely, to help schools leverage the influence of these students to reduce school conflict. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.