Swayed by Friends or by the Crowd?
Dept. of Computer ScienceColumbia Universityzeinab@cs.columbia.edu
Social Computing GroupHP Labschristina.firstname.lastname@example.org
Bernardo A. Huberman
Social Computing GroupHP Labsbernardo.email@example.com
We have conducted three empirical studies of the effects of friend recommendations and general ratings on how onlineusers make choices. These two components of social inﬂu-ence were investigated through user studies on MechanicalTurk. We ﬁnd that for a user deciding between two choicesan additional rating star has a much larger effect than an ad-ditional friend’s recommendation on the probability of se-lecting an item. Equally important, negative opinions fromfriends are more inﬂuential than positive opinions, and peo-ple exhibit more random behavior in their choices when thedecision involves less cost and risk. Our results can be gen-eralized across different demographics, implying that indi-viduals trade off recommendations from friends and ratingsin a similar fashion.
SocialInﬂuence, Friends, Ratings, Choice, DynamicsofMar-ket Share
ACM Classiﬁcation Keywords
H.5.m Information Interfaces and Presentation (e.g., HCI):Miscellaneous; K.4.4 Computers and Society: [ElectronicCommerce]
Human Factors, Experimentation.
When making choices, people use information from a num-ber of sources including friends, family, experts, media, andthe general public. Two sources that are particularly relevantin an online setting are the opinions of friends and ratingsfrom the general public. Friends inﬂuence choices becauseoften their interests overlap with their friends’ interests. Inmany cases, however, recommendations from one’s friendsare in stark contrast to opinions of individuals in the generalpublic who are not one’s friends.
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An interesting question, which we study in this paper, is howthe decision of an online user is inﬂuenced by friend recom-mendations and ratings from the general public, in partic-ular when these two sources of information are in conﬂictwith each other. This question is interesting for two reasons:First, understanding how people trade off friends’ opinionswith ratings from the general public helps to determine theweight assigned by consumers to these two sources whenthey are uncertain about choosing one of two possible op-tions. Second, from a normative standpoint, this informationcan be used when designing algorithms that display thesetwo sources of information in order to increase the probabil-ityofauserselectingoneoftheoptions. Forexample, anon-line social network platform that has information about howa user’s friends and the general public have rated two differ-ent items can display to the user the item that she is morelikely to select. On the other hand, if users tend to disregardsome source of information, this source need not be shownto the user. Finally, an advertiser that wishes to make theuser choose a certain item may strategically choose whichpieces of information to show.Speciﬁcally, focusing on friends and the general public astwocomponentsofsocialinﬂuenceisimportantbecausethesesources of social information are already used in a varietyof algorithms and applications online. Social recommendersystems take into account the actions of a user’s friends andmake recommendations accordingly. Social search is alsogaining more attention. Google recently launched its +1 but-ton for search results and ads in order to improve its searchalgorithm. If a user thinks that a search result or an ad is use-ful she can click on the +1 button. The +1 will be displayedalong with the user’s name in the search results to all herfriends who subsequently search a similar query. For userswho are not friends, only the number of +1’s will be dis-played. Facebook uses a similar approach for business pageswith the intention of getting higher click-through rates. Themodel that we suggest can be leveraged to design better al-gorithms for these and other similar applications.In addition to quantifying how an individual makes choicesin the presence of social inﬂuence, we also consider how agroup of users makes decisions over time when exposed toinformation from friends as well as ratings from the gen-eral public. While previous work has studied how groupsmake decisions in the presence of social inﬂuence, it has notconsidered the different sources of this inﬂuence. For in-stance, the model of Bendor et al. that considers individualsmaking choices takes into account one source of informa-1