Impact of sharing full versus averaged social information on social influence and estimation accuracy

Bertrand Jayles, Clément Sire, Ralf H. J. M Kurvers

The recent developments of social networks and recommender systems have dramatically increased the amount of social information shared in human communities, challenging the human ability to process it. As a result, sharing aggregated forms of social information is becoming increasingly popular. However, it is unknown whether sharing aggregated information improves people's judgments more than sharing the full available information. Here, we compare the performance of groups in estimation tasks when social information is fully shared versus when it is first averaged and then shared. We find that improvements in estimation accuracy are comparable in both cases. However, our results reveal important differences in subjects' behaviour: (i) subjects follow the social information more when receiving an average than when receiving all estimates, and this effect increases with the number of estimates underlying the average; (ii) subjects follow the social information more when it is higher than their personal estimate than when it is lower. This effect is stronger when receiving all estimates than when receiving an average. We introduce a model that sheds light on these effects, and confirms their importance for explaining improvements in estimation accuracy in all treatments.

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