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August 9, 2013 7:49 AM   Subscribe

Online ‘Likes’ Herd Others to Similar Views
Researchers during the five-month study randomly altered the ratings of 101,000 comments. Those manipulated to be more positive were about one-third more likely than unaltered comments to receive a positive rating from the next viewer, and 30 percent more likely to achieve a high favorable rating.
posted by Mitheral (36 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
I would mark this as a favorite but no one else has yet.
posted by mountmccabe at 7:56 AM on August 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


I marked this as a favorite because someone else already did.
posted by frijole at 7:59 AM on August 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


The study.
posted by Toekneesan at 8:00 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Reddit comment scores may be hidden for a defined time period after posting.
I also really like that MeFi has the option to hide the favorite count.
posted by Valued Customer at 8:00 AM on August 9, 2013


Interesting study, but I disagree with the framing. For example, the 'Editor's Summary' for the study says:

The Internet has increased the likelihood that our decisions will be influenced by those being made around us. On the one hand, group decision-making can lead to better decisions, but it can also lead to “herding effects” that have resulted in financial disasters.

Herding effects and social influence biases aren't new, and they don't have anything at all to do with the internet (though it may accelerate the effect). The tulip bulb bubble predated the internet by about 350 years, and I have yet to see anyone say that social media played a role in the housing bubble either.
posted by googly at 8:01 AM on August 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Actually, I thought the New York Times covered it better.
posted by Toekneesan at 8:01 AM on August 9, 2013


Research (and this is observable) shows human beings are subject to herd instinct, or herd behaviour, so that's not exactly a surprise. It affects the way we make decisions as a group, as well as analyze / judge new situations and form opinions. We've also known for years that it only takes a small number of individuals to influence a large crowd of people. It's an instinct that serves us well in emergencies, and can be detrimental when crowds turn into violent mobs.

What's interesting about these findings to me is that the results were not consistent between positive and negative ratings.
posted by zarq at 8:02 AM on August 9, 2013


Social proof for the win.
posted by meadowlark lime at 8:06 AM on August 9, 2013


Applying this to mefi... i know that people have said in the past on Meta that having a post or comment show up on the Popular page can bring an additional burst of favorites -- although I've never paid close enough attention to see if it were happening. But it would make sense, I suppose: increasing a post or comment's visibility could lead to more people finding it interesting.
posted by zarq at 8:06 AM on August 9, 2013


This not surprising in the least. Many of us who were opposed to the misstep of 'favorites' were aware of this when they were introduced. People are herd animals and 'thumbs up'/favorites are signals that drive groupthink.
posted by dios at 8:10 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Certainly I've seen old posts/comments of mine receive additional favourites long after first publication, because they gotten linked from a new FPP.
posted by MartinWisse at 8:11 AM on August 9, 2013


I'm really conflicted about favoriting dios' comment.
posted by Jpfed at 8:13 AM on August 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


I would mark this as a butt elephant but no one else has yet.
posted by mountmccabe at 10:56 on August 9 [3 butt elephants +] [!]


This. A thousand times, this.
posted by slogger at 8:14 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


[remove from favorites] Sorry, mountmccabe, obseleted your comment by -2 min.

Actually, what got me using favorites more as opposed to merely as an up button was pb's random fave link.

Thought I still do use faves as a "bookmark" on long threads from time to time.

Maybe change from "Favorite" to "This".
posted by tilde at 8:16 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Another related and interesting thing that appeared in the NYT a few months ago:
In a study published online last month in The Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, we and three colleagues report on an experiment designed to measure what one might call “the nasty effect.”

[...]

The results were both surprising and disturbing. Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant’s interpretation of the news story itself.

In the civil group, those who initially did or did not support the technology — whom we identified with preliminary survey questions — continued to feel the same way after reading the comments. Those exposed to rude comments, however, ended up with a much more polarized understanding of the risks connected with the technology.
posted by rtha at 8:18 AM on August 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Reddit comment scores may be hidden for a defined time period after posting.

While I don't like how /u/Deimorz reacted to the violentacrez problem, he has really been hitting some home runs in the "give mods awesome tools that will move reddit in a better direction" department.

posted by Jpfed at 8:19 AM on August 9, 2013


I am so into favorites right now. Getting them, giving them, trading them, wearing them on my wrist, making them battle each other, grinding them up and mixing them in nail polish. I've pretty much got a complete collection, including all the holo foil favorites and the Japanese blind bag favorites. Oh, and the rainbow favorites are my favorite favorites, so I've got a double set of those. I guess I'll get bored of them eventually, but when that happens I'll just sell them on eBay and retire early.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:27 AM on August 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm on my way to Meta right now to insist that the [+] be replaced with [Sheeple].
posted by HuronBob at 8:36 AM on August 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm really conflicted about favoriting dios' comment.

Just flag it as noise!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:49 AM on August 9, 2013 [2 favorites]




googly: " I have yet to see anyone say that social media played a role in the housing bubble either."

Yeah - that was pretty much radio ads on talk shows and late night infomercials pushing that shitty bubble. I mean, along with all the usual culprits on Wall Street.
posted by symbioid at 9:09 AM on August 9, 2013


Is this something I'd need to have "Favorites" turned on to understand?

Also I run MeFi with the professional white background activated. I'm hacking up all sorts of sacred cows today! Golly, what a rebel ... :)
posted by barnacles at 9:11 AM on August 9, 2013


Trolling for favorites I see.
posted by yohko at 9:28 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yo I'm hacking Facebook by liking my status and then liking that like and so forth. Soon everything will be subsumed in the Grand Like, also called Jimmy.
posted by Mister_A at 9:59 AM on August 9, 2013


zarq: i know that people have said in the past on Meta that having a post or comment show up on the Popular page can bring an additional burst of favorites

Of course you get a spike of votes when you get exposure through a new mechanism, but that is not related to this study. This study is about people seeing a number of "likes", and literally (subconsciously?) deciding whether to add their vote to it based on the magnitude of the number.

MartinWisse: Certainly I've seen old posts/comments of mine receive additional favourites long after first publication, because they gotten linked from a new FPP.

Same as above. That's added publicity.

This is about group think, not exposure. I think the added exposure mechanisms are beneficial features of the favourites system. The group think fuel is completely destructive.
posted by Chuckles at 10:39 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


See, kids, back before the internet, we'd listen to a song on the radio or watch a show on TV or look at a pair of jeans in the store and we couldn't see how many other people "liked" it, so we decided for ourselves. There was none of this social pressure telling us what music to like or what shows we should watch or what clothes we should wear.
posted by straight at 10:46 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


This seems related to a couple of other things I've strayed across about the influence of "herding" on popularity:

This article describes a couple of studies on music chart listings, demonstrating a similar "herding" behavior there. The actual papers are pretty dense and IMO quite cleverly designed. They're well worth reading if you find the article interesting, and appear to be open access. Very briefly, researchers created a music streaming & download service, and opened it to 14,341 teenagers. Upon joining, the teens were assigned to groups who either could see how popular each track was among their peers, or couldn't. Within each of those groups, there were several sub-groups who were treated identically but their data kept separate. In short, quality did play a role in a song's ranking in the charts: there was no consistent ranking, but a few songs tended to do well in every group, and a few did badly in every group. Interestingly, in the groups which could see how popular each song was, while there was no consistent winner (...or loser), whoever did win was ahead of the competition by a much bigger margin, and could be predicted by watching for apparently random early gains in popularity. They also performed an experiment to see what happened when the researchers started showing the teens fake popularity data... the article I linked has a nice summary.

There's another description of this research here, finishing with a paragraph about more recent work showing that whether and for how long someone claps is better predicted by factors like the perceived volume of people clapping around them than by how much they actually enjoyed the performance. The overall amount of clapping does correlate weakly with how much the audience as a whole enjoed the performance (but other factors like acoustic strongly influence this, as with e.g. laughter in a comedy club), but individuals tend to be dragged strongly toward the group consensus.
posted by metaBugs at 11:04 AM on August 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Utterly unsurprising. There have been studies showing, for instance, that if everyone in person is agreeing with something, people will generally agree even if they know it's wrong. (I remember an example of "which line is longer" and not, say, "shock the 'patient'")
posted by rmd1023 at 11:54 AM on August 9, 2013


I remember an example of "which line is longer"

Asch conformity experiments
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 1:11 PM on August 9, 2013


I think "Likes" are probably different in nature than Metafilter favorites. Favorites are nice and all, but (no offense intended) 99.9% of y'all are more or less complete strangers to me and I don't care all that much about whether you like what I have to say by comparison to my friends and family etc. Nor am I going to feel the same kind of inclination or even obligation to "like" or "Favorite" a stranger's comment as I would if my sister posted a picture of her new haircut on Facebook or something. Like "oh, I guess we are all liking this thing Old Friend posted now, I better like it too cuz I don't want to look like I don't care." (Also no one ever made the argument that "likes" don't mean "like" and some people only use them as bookmarks and coincidentally 200 other people also decided to bookmark that exact same comment.)

That said, Favorites aren't all that different from Reddit upvotes so I guess it kind of applies if the study took those into account. But Reddit upvotes are fucking weird and you can actually see this phenomenon in real time sometimes--in one thread a meme of some kind gets upvoted like crazy, where in another its gets downvoted like mad while being used in a similar context. Or the bots and novelty accounts--all of a sudden in one thread everybody loves a comment made by a bot or a novelty account, but sometimes it inexplicably goes the other way. Either way it's a veritable avalanche of up/down votes
posted by Hoopo at 1:30 PM on August 9, 2013


Not only does the upvote/downvote brigade come into play on Reddit, I've also learned to manipulate the PM brigade:

"EDIT: Hot chicks, please stop PM'ing me. Thanks, but I'm plenty busy right now."
posted by surplus at 1:57 PM on August 9, 2013


Hmm. It was the style with a particular segment when I was a youth that after a night of passion with a young lady to hang her panties from your rear view mirror. It always seemed incredibly crass and indiscreet to me but maybe it acted as a form of signalling 'like'.
posted by Mitheral at 6:20 PM on August 9, 2013


I think the added exposure mechanisms are beneficial features of the favourites system. The group think fuel is completely destructive.

I think this is why I'm pretty happy with turning off the display of favourites and popping into Popular every now and then.
posted by maudlin at 6:50 PM on August 9, 2013


It's interesting, from the 2009 favorites experiment, to see how many people were looking for the heavily favorited things to see what they should pay attention to, in conjunction with the study listed here.
posted by corb at 6:58 AM on August 10, 2013


See, kids, back before the internet, we'd listen to a song on the radio or watch a show on TV or look at a pair of jeans in the store and we couldn't see how many other people "liked" it, so we decided for ourselves. There was none of this social pressure telling us what music to like or what shows we should watch or what clothes we should wear.

Politely disagreeing here, because when I hit middle school and most of the girls my age were wearing Jordache and Sergio Valenti jeans except me (who was still in Sears) and were listening to Duran Duran and Prince except me (I didn't have my own radio/walkman yet and listened to the parents' music) it was damn evident which jeans and music had "likes".
posted by kimberussell at 8:32 AM on August 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, that was my point, kimberussell. Liking stuff because of herd behavior wasn't invented by the internet.
posted by straight at 4:08 PM on August 10, 2013


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