Large-scale transitions in societies are associated with both individual behavioural change and restructuring of the social network. These two factors have often been considered independently, yet recent advances in social network research challenge this view. Here we show that common features of societal marginalization and clustering emerge naturally during transitions in a co-evolutionary adaptive network model. This is achieved by explicitly considering the interplay between individual interaction and a dynamic network structure in behavioural selection. We exemplify this mechanism by simulating how smoking behaviour and the network structure get reconfigured by changing social norms. Our results are consistent with empirical findings: The prevalence of smoking was reduced, remaining smokers were preferentially connected among each other and formed increasingly marginalized clusters. We propose that self-amplifying feedbacks between individual behaviour and dynamic restructuring of the network are main drivers of the transition. This generative mechanism for co-evolution of individual behaviour and social network structure may apply to a wide range of examples beyond smoking.
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