Strong ties between individuals can actually hinder the spread of information through a network, a study has shown.

A team of data scientists at Northeastern University in Boson led by Marton Karsai examined more than 600 million time-stamped mobile phone calls between six million people over six months in an unnamed European country. “Our results provide the counterintuitive evidence that strong ties may have a negative role in the spreading of information across networks,” says the study.

The power of weak ties has been expounded since sociologist Mark Granovetter published a paper called “The Strength of Weak Ties” in 1973 — one of the most cited papers in social network theory. This paper — which asked several hundred people how they got their jobs — stated that information largely spreads through society between individuals with weak connections, instead of strong ties. The Northeastern team, however, was keen to examine how information spread when there were strong ties between individuals.