Man-Bites-Dog Contagion: Disproportionate Diffusion of Information about Rare Categories of Events

56 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2021

See all articles by Alice Jayoung Jang

Alice Jayoung Jang

Boston University, Questrom School of Business, Department of Management Information Systems, Students

Jesse Shore

Boston University - Questrom School of Business

Date Written: January 28, 2021

Abstract

How do social networks affect the diffusion of information? While previous research has mainly focused on the spread of specific messages, we study how the overall mix of information that diffuses through multiple intermediaries can become distorted or biased based on what categories of information people pass on versus filter out. We conducted randomized online laboratory experiments of diffusion through multi-step social networks. We find support for our pre-registered hypotheses that (1) the further someone is down a diffusion chain, the more the mix of information that they receive is biased toward rare categories of events because (2) information about rare categories of events is passed on disproportionately frequently. Our data is consistent with a preference for variety in what is shared, as well as a perceptual bias in favor of rare events. We name the disproportionate diffusion of rare categories of events "Man-Bites-Dog Contagion." Even when people intend to be accurate and informative, multi-step diffusion risks de-emphasizing the importance of empirically common categories of events and over-emphasizing the importance of empirically rare categories of events.

Keywords: Information diffusion, social networks, collective intelligence, social media, network experiment

JEL Classification: M15,M31

Suggested Citation

Jang, Alice Jayoung and Shore, Jesse, Man-Bites-Dog Contagion: Disproportionate Diffusion of Information about Rare Categories of Events (January 28, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3774989 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3774989

Alice Jayoung Jang

Boston University, Questrom School of Business, Department of Management Information Systems, Students ( email )

595 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

Jesse Shore (Contact Author)

Boston University - Questrom School of Business ( email )

595 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA MA 02215
United States

HOME PAGE: http://jesseshore.com

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