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Social Comparisons and Contributions to Online Communities: A Field Experiment on MovieLens

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  • Yan Chen
  • F. Maxwell Harper
  • Joseph Konstan
  • Sherry Xin Li
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    Abstract

    We design a field experiment to explore the use of social comparison to increase contributions to an online community. We find that, after receiving behavioral information about the median user's total number of movie ratings, users below the median demonstrate a 530 percent increase in the number of monthly movie ratings, while those above the median decrease their ratings by 62 percent. When given outcome information about the average user's net benefit score, above-average users mainly engage in activities that help others. Our findings suggest that effective personalized social information can increase the level of public goods provision. (JEL C93, H41, L82)

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    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/aer.100.4.1358
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    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/aer/data/sept2010/20071512_data.zip
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

    Volume (Year): 100 (2010)
    Issue (Month): 4 (September)
    Pages: 1358-98

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    Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:100:y:2010:i:4:p:1358-98

    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.100.4.1358
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    1. Cox, J. & Friedman, D. & Gjerstad, S., 2006. "A Trackable Model of Reciprocity and Fairness," Purdue University Economics Working Papers 1181, Purdue University, Department of Economics.
    2. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1998. "A Theory of Fairness, Competition and Cooperation," CEPR Discussion Papers 1812, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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    4. Armin Falk & Urs Fischbacher, 2001. "A Theory of Reciprocity," CESifo Working Paper Series 457, CESifo Group Munich.
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    6. Iris Bohnet & Richard Zeckhauser, 2004. "Social comparisons in ultimatum bargaining," CREMA Working Paper Series 2004-08, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    7. John Duffy & Tatiana Kornienko, 2006. "Does Competition Affect Giving?," Working Papers 275, University of Pittsburgh, Department of Economics, revised Apr 2009.
    8. Robson, Arthur J, 1992. "Status, the Distribution of Wealth, Private and Social Attitudes to Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(4), pages 837-57, July.
    9. Timothy N. Cason & Vai-Lam Mui, 1998. "Social Influence in the Sequential Dictator Game," Development Research Unit Working Paper Series archive-37, Monash University, Department of Economics.
    10. George A. Akerlof, 1978. "A theory of social custom, of which unemployment may be one consequence," Special Studies Papers 118, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    11. Rabin, Matthew, 1993. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1281-1302, December.
    12. Ed Hopkins & Tatiana Kornienko, 2004. "Running to Keep in the Same Place: Consumer Choice as a Game of Status," ESE Discussion Papers 92, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
    13. Bernheim, B Douglas, 1994. "A Theory of Conformity," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 841-77, October.
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