A 61-Million-Person Experiment in Social Influence and Political Mobilization

Nature 489: 295-298 (13 September 2012)

55 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2011 Last revised: 27 Jul 2014

See all articles by Robert M. Bond

Robert M. Bond

Ohio State University (OSU)

Christopher J. Fariss

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Political Science

Jason J. Jones

Stony Brook University; University of California, San Diego (UCSD)

Adam Kramer

Facebook, Inc.

Cameron Marlow

Independent

Jaime Settle

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science

James H. Fowler

UC San Diego Division of Social Sciences; UC San Diego School of Medicine

Date Written: September 13, 2012

Abstract

Human behaviour is thought to spread through face-to-face social networks, but it is difficult to identify social influence effects in observational studies 9–13, and it is unknown whether online social networks operate in the same way 14–19. Here we report results from a randomized controlled trial of political mobilization messages delivered to 61 million Facebook users during the 2010 US congressional elections. The results show that the messages directly influenced political self-expression, information seeking and real- world voting behaviour of millions of people. Furthermore, the messages not only influenced the users who received them but also the users’ friends, and friends of friends. The effect of social transmission on real-world voting was greater than the direct effect of the messages themselves, and nearly all the transmission occurred between ‘close friends’ who were more likely to have a face-to-face relationship. These results suggest that strong ties are instrumental for spreading both online and real-world behaviour in human social networks.

Suggested Citation

Bond, Robert M. and Fariss, Christopher J. and Jones, Jason Jeffrey and Kramer, Adam and Marlow, Cameron and Settle, Jaime and Fowler, James H., A 61-Million-Person Experiment in Social Influence and Political Mobilization (September 13, 2012). Nature 489: 295-298 (13 September 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1767292

Robert M. Bond

Ohio State University (OSU) ( email )

Blankenship Hall-2010
901 Woody Hayes Drive
Columbus, OH OH 43210
United States

Christopher J. Fariss

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Political Science ( email )

Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

Jason Jeffrey Jones

Stony Brook University ( email )

Health Science Center
Stony Brook, NY 11794
United States

HOME PAGE: http://jasonjones.ninja/

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Mail Code 0502
La Jolla, CA 92093-0112
United States

Adam Kramer

Facebook, Inc. ( email )

1601 S. California Ave.
Palo Alto, CA 94304
United States

Cameron Marlow

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

Jaime Settle

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Code 0521
La Jolla, CA 92093-0521
United States

James H. Fowler (Contact Author)

UC San Diego Division of Social Sciences ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Code 0521
La Jolla, CA 92093-0521
United States

HOME PAGE: http://jhfowler.ucsd.edu

UC San Diego School of Medicine ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
MC 0507
La Jolla, CA 92093
United States

HOME PAGE: http://jhfowler.ucsd.edu

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