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To Belong or to Be Different? Evidence from a Large-Scale Field Experiment in China

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Author Info

  • Monic Sun

    ()
    (Department of Marketing, Stanford University)

  • Xiaoquan (Michael) Zhang

    ()
    (Department of Information Systems, Business Statistics and Operations Management, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology)

  • Feng Zhu

    ()
    (Department of Management and Organization, University of Southern California)

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    Abstract

    We examined whether people conform to or diverge from the most popular choice among their friends by conducting a large-scale field experiment on a leading social-networking site in China. Our setting allowed us to minimize confounding effects such as pre-existing taste similarities between a subject and her friends, the need to create a social identity, and the possibility of learning by observing friends’ choices. Surprisingly, we found that subjects were more likely to diverge from the popular choice among their friends as the popularity of that choice increased. The effect was more pronounced when they were reminded that their choices were visible to their friends. These results suggest that even members of a collectivist culture have a dominating need to be different.

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    File URL: http://www.netinst.org/Sun_12-15.pdf
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by NET Institute in its series Working Papers with number 12-15.

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    Length: 19 pages
    Date of creation: Jun 2012
    Date of revision: Oct 2012
    Handle: RePEc:net:wpaper:1215

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    Web page: http://www.NETinst.org/

    Related research

    Keywords: uniqueness-seeking; conformity; collectivist culture; field experiment; social network;

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    1. Stephen Leider & Markus M. Möbius & Tanya Rosenblat & Quoc-Anh Do, 2010. "What Do We Expect from Our Friends?," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 8(1), pages 120-138, 03.
    2. Steven Levitt & John List, 2009. "Field experiments in economics: The past, the present, and the future," Artefactual Field Experiments 00079, The Field Experiments Website.
    3. Banerjee, Abhijit V, 1992. "A Simple Model of Herd Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(3), pages 797-817, August.
    4. Hongbin Cai & Yuyu Chen & Hanming Fang, 2009. "Observational Learning: Evidence from a Randomized Natural Field Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(3), pages 864-82, June.
    5. repec:feb:artefa:0087 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Horrace, William C. & Oaxaca, Ronald L., 2006. "Results on the bias and inconsistency of ordinary least squares for the linear probability model," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 90(3), pages 321-327, March.
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