Online Exploration, Content Choice & Echo Chambers: An Experiment

32 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2017

See all articles by Sagit Bar-Gill

Sagit Bar-Gill

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Neil Gandal

Berglas School of Economics, Tel Aviv University; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Date Written: March 2017


In this experiment, we create an online search environment where users explore the TED Talks collection, and choose a talk to watch. As users search in this environment, they can separately control two search dimensions - topic and popularity. Furthermore, in topic-based searches, we randomly block/show popularity information. We ask: what types of users are most likely to get caught in a content echo chamber and what is the role of popularity information provision in facilitating echo chambers? Susceptibility to echo chambers is proxied by: (I) conducting little to no exploration in the search process, and (II) relying on popularity in content choice. We find that high levels of sociability and previous experience with similar content are associated with susceptibility to echo chambers. Opinion leadership, on the other hand, is associated with more exploration and lower reliance on popularity. Interestingly, popularity information provision increases opinion leaders' popularity sorting, and thus raises the potential for content echo chambers.

Keywords: content exploration, echo chamber, filter bubble, online search, opinion leadership

Suggested Citation

Bar-Gill, Sagit and Gandal, Neil, Online Exploration, Content Choice & Echo Chambers: An Experiment (March 2017). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP11909, Available at SSRN:

Sagit Bar-Gill (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

Neil Gandal

Berglas School of Economics, Tel Aviv University ( email )

Tel Aviv University
Tel Aviv 69978
+972 3 640 9907 (Phone)
+972 3 640 9908 (Fax)


Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

United Kingdom

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