True or false? There are only six degrees of separation between any two people

False:

Judith Kleinfeld, a professor psychology at Alaska Fairbanks University, went back to Milgram's original research notes and found something surprising.

It turned out, she told us, that 95% of the letters sent out had failed to reach the target.

Not only did they fail to get there in six steps, they failed to get there at all.

Milgram was a giant figure in his world of research, but here was evidence that the claim he was famously associated with was not supported by his experiments.

Six degrees of separation' may be the academic equivalent of an urban myth
Judith Kleinfeld, Psychologist
"I was shocked. I was horrified," she said.

And when she looked for other studies, none of those matched up to the claim either.

In the most recent, two years ago, only 3% of letters reached their target.

"If 95 or 97 letters out of 100 never reached their target, would you say it was proof of six degrees of separation? So why do we want to believe this?"

"The pleasing idea that we live in a 'small world' where people are connected by 'six degrees of separation' may be the academic equivalent of an urban myth," she says. 
BBC NEWS | Programmes | More Or Less | Connecting with people in six steps

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