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Anyone who has been through school will relate to Popularity Explained. The reader will also come to appreciate that the psychological forces underlying the phenomenon are not unique to adolescents. Anywhere there are people, there is potential for popularity: at work, at home, and even in retirement.
Chapter 1: The Phenomenon That Is
Let there be no doubt. Popularity is very real and very important. This fascinating phenomenon re-emerges every year but has never been fully explained.
Chapter 2: Students We All Know
Being “popular” isn’t about being liked or disliked: it is a perception by others. This distinction doesn’t mean that liking and disliking are irrelevant. All three concepts are necessary to classify students into groups and properly define the social landscape.
Chapter 3: The Hierarchy of Attraction
Attraction is not synonymous with beauty. There are many things that make someone attractive or unattractive. This fact, combined with statistics, form the basis of the Hierarchy of Attraction which depicts the attractiveness of people in terms of a percentile.
Chapter 4: Input of Energy
Human behaviour, despite its complexity and innumerable nuances, can be surprisingly consistent. Once overtaken by attraction, people begin to behave in ways that are predictable. These patterns of behaviour are referred to as “Input of Energy.”
Chapter 5: Attraction, Liking, & Attachment
Attraction, liking, and attachment are not synonymous. In fact, each has a unique neural signature and results in different behaviours. Because each originates from a different area in the brain, all three can be dissociated resulting in some odd and interesting behaviour.
Chapter 6: The Emergence of Popularity
Using the basic concepts discussed previous, the emergence of popularity can be explained. Where does it come from? Why does it happen so consistently? Why do the same traits always result in high social status?
Chapter 7: Liking and Disliking
To focus on popularity alone would be a fallacy. Only one third of the social landscape is defined by the dimension popular/unpopular. Liking and disliking must also be considered.
Chapter 8: The Situation
People underestimate how much the situation drives their behaviour. This important factor should never be ignored. In fact, it is the specific circumstances found in grade school that allow the phenomenon of popularity to reach its full fruition. Anywhere the grade school context is approximated, glimmers of popularity will re-emerge.
Chapter 9: Friendship and the Genesis of Cliques
No book on the subject of grade school social dynamics would be complete without a discussion of friendship and cliques. These expansive subjects are discussed together because the same predictors — proximity, similarity, and attraction — apply to both. The exact and specific reasons why two people bond are innumerable but that doesn’t mean meaningful predictions cannot be made.
Chapter 10: Breaking In & Painful Self-Discovery
The social dynamics of grade school are a system that can be studied and manipulated like any other. Purposeful interventions are possible and can result in real change. Although the experience of popularity is available to anyone who knows what to look for, not everyone can necessarily be everything. Some things aren’t meant to be and this can be a painful self-discovery.
Chapter 11: Some Questions Answered
Why does popularity emerge in every generation around the world? Why do popular students get away with being arrogant jerks? Why does sex always complicate things? How can popularity be experienced in five minutes or less? These and 18 other questions are answered in chapter 11.
Chapter 12: Practical Advice and Conclusions
What is the utility of theory without practical applications? After reading Popularity Explained, parents and educators will feel confident counselling students, answering questions, and offering advice. Eleven of the author’s own suggestions conclude the book.