A Theoretical Examination of Homophily Beyond Focus Theory: Causes, Consequences, and New Directions

SAGE Open, Volume 13, Issue 2, April-June 2023.
Scott Feld’s focus theory stimulated one of the most important traditions in the study of the concept of homophily in connection to individual action and network behavior across sociology and organizational studies. This article uses Feld’s focus theory as a starting point of reference to examine the major theoretical developments and empirical applications of homophily since his pioneering work. First, this article interrogates the causes of homophily by examining structured versus social psychological preference for similarity as two prominent explanatory mechanisms for homophily. Second, this article scopes out the consequences of homophily by examining the advantages and disadvantages of homophily for individual action and network behavior. Finally, building on the previous sections, this article proposes new areas for the study of homophily: deleterious psychosocial consequences of homophily, the role of multiplexity in causing homophily, and the disaggregation of homophily in general into different, nuanced (potentially interacting) types of homophily. This article thus contributes to the literature by offering a critical juncture to examine the key arguments that have guided the study of homophily since Feld’s focus theory and an important launching point for future research on the concept of homophily and its applications.

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