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

  • Yan Chen
  • F. Maxwell Harper
  • Joseph Konstan
  • Sherry Xin Li
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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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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. Armin Falk & Urs Fischbacher, 2001. "A Theory of Reciprocity," CESifo Working Paper Series 457, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, 1999. "A Theory Of Fairness, Competition, And Cooperation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(3), pages 817-868, August.
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  7. John Duffy & Tatiana Kornienko, 2006. "Does Competition Affect Giving?," Working Papers 275, University of Pittsburgh, Department of Economics, revised Apr 2009.
  8. Bohnet, Iris & Zeckhauser, Richard, 2003. "Social Comparisons in Ultimatum Bargaining," Working Paper Series rwp03-028, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  9. 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.
  10. Ed Hopkins & Tatiana Kornienko, 2004. "Running to Keep in the Same Place: Consumer Choice as a Game of Status," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 1085-1107, September.
  11. Timothy N. Cason & Vai-Lam Mui, 1998. "Social Influence in the Sequential Dictator Game," Monash Economics Working Papers archive-37, Monash University, Department of Economics.
  12. Nick Feltovich & John Duffy, 1999. "Does observation of others affect learning in strategic environments? An experimental study," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer, vol. 28(1), pages 131-152.
  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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