Quantifying the Effects of Social Influence


16 Pages Posted: 28 Feb 2013

Date Written: January 31, 2013


How do humans respond to indirect social influence when making decisions? We analyzed an experiment where subjects had to repeatedly guess the correct answer to factual questions, while having only aggregated information about the answers of others. While the response of humans to aggregated information is a widely observed phenomenon, it has not been investigated quantitatively, in a controlled setting. We found that the adjustment of individual guesses depends linearly on the distance to the mean of all guesses. This is a remarkable, and yet surprisingly simple, statistical regularity. It holds across all questions analyzed, even though the correct answers differ in several orders of magnitude. Our finding supports the assumption that individual diversity does not affect the response to indirect social influence. It also complements previous results on the nonlinear response in information-rich scenarios. We argue that the nature of the response to social influence crucially changes with the level of information aggregation. This insight contributes to the empirical foundation of models for collective decisions under social influence.

Keywords: social influence, collective decision, heterogeneous population

Suggested Citation

Mavrodiev, Pavlin and Tessone, Claudio J. and Schweitzer, Frank, Quantifying the Effects of Social Influence (January 31, 2013). ETH-RC-13-001. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2224562 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2224562

Pavlin Mavrodiev (Contact Author)

ETH Zurich ( email )

WEV G 206 Weinbergstrasse 56/58
Zurich, 8092

Claudio J. Tessone

ETH Zürich ( email )

Zürichbergstrasse 18
8092 Zurich, CH-1015

HOME PAGE: http://www.sg.ethz.ch/people/tessonec

Frank Schweitzer

ETH Zürich ( email )

Weinbergstrasse 56/58
WEV Room G 211
Zurich, CH-8032
+41 44 632 83 50 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.sg.ethz.ch

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