Identity effects in social media – Nature.com

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.
Advertisement
Nature Human Behaviour (2022)
1463 Accesses
356 Altmetric
Metrics details
Identity cues appear ubiquitously alongside content in social media today. Some also suggest universal identification, with names and other cues, as a useful deterrent to harmful behaviours online. Unfortunately, we know little about the effects of identity cues on opinions and online behaviours. Here we used a large-scale longitudinal field experiment to estimate the extent to which identity cues affect how people form opinions about and interact with content online. We randomly assigned content produced on a social news aggregation website to ‘identified’ and ‘anonymous’ conditions to estimate the causal effect of identity cues on how viewers vote and reply to content. The effects of identity cues were significant and heterogeneous, accounting for between 28% and 61% of the variation in voting associated with commenters’ production, reputation and reciprocity. Our results also showed that identity cues cause people to vote on content faster (consistent with heuristic processing) and to vote according to content producers’ reputations, production history and reciprocal votes with content viewers. These results provide evidence that rich-get-richer dynamics and inequality in social content evaluation are mediated by identity cues. They also provide insights into the evolution of status in online communities. From a practical perspective, we show via simulation that social platforms may improve content quality by including votes on anonymized content as a ranking signal.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Subscribe to Nature+
Get immediate online access to Nature and 55 other Nature journal
$29.99
monthly

Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
$119.00
only $9.92 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
$32.00
All prices are NET prices.
An anonymized version of the data supporting this study is retained indefinitely for reproducibility. The data can be accessed from the authors by signing a non-disclosure agreement available at the following GitHub repository: https://github.com/seanjtaylor/identify_effects_in_social_media. The NDA requires that researchers provide their affiliation and attest that they will only use the data for reproduction and that no attempt will be made to re-engineer the identities of users or the platform.
The code supporting this study is available at the following GitHub repository: https://github.com/seanjtaylor/identify_effects_in_social_media.
Burns, W. Is it time to require identity verification for everyone using social media? Forbes https://www.forbes.com/sites/willburns/2018/02/22/is-it-time-to-require-identity-verification-for-everyone-using-social-media/?sh=74308aec8683 (2018).
Salganik, M. J. & Watts, D. J. Leading the herd astray: an experimental study of self-fulfilling prophecies in an artificial cultural market. Soc. Psychol. Q. 71, 338–355 (2008).
Article  Google Scholar 
Lorenz, J., Rauhut, H., Schweitzer, F. & Helbing, D. How social influence can undermine the wisdom of crowd effect. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 108, 9020–9025 (2011).
Article  CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 
Muchnik, L., Aral, S. & Taylor, S. J. Social influence bias: a randomized experiment. Science 341, 647–651 (2013).
Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 
Chaiken, S. Heuristic versus systematic information processing and the use of source versus message cues in persuasion. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 39, 752–766 (1980).
Article  Google Scholar 
Chaiken, S. in Social Influence: The Ontario Symposium Vol. 5 (eds Zanna, M. P. et al.) 3–39 (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1987).
Hass, R. G. in Cognitive Responses in Persuasion Vol. 2 (eds Petty, R. E. et al.) Ch. 7 (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1981); https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315803012
Walther, J. B. Relational aspects of computer-mediated communication: experimental observations over time. Organ. Sci. 6, 186–203 (1995).
Article  Google Scholar 
Walther, J. B. Computer-mediated communication: impersonal, interpersonal, and hyperpersonal interaction. Commun. Res. 23, 3–43 (1996).
Article  Google Scholar 
Resnick, P., Kuwabara, K., Zeckhauser, R. & Friedman, E. Reputation systems. Commun. ACM 43, 45–48 (2000).
Article  Google Scholar 
Pavlou, P. A. & Gefen, D. Building effective online marketplaces with institution-based trust. Inf. Syst. Res. 15, 37–59 (2004).
Article  Google Scholar 
Moon, J. Y. & Sproull, L. S. The role of feedback in managing the Internet-based volunteer work force. Inf. Syst. Res. 19, 494–515 (2008).
Article  Google Scholar 
Wetzer, I. M., Zeelenberg, M. & Pieters, R. “Never eat in that restaurant, I did!”: exploring why people engage in negative word-of-mouth communication. Psychol. Mark. 24, 661–680 (2007).
Article  Google Scholar 
Wood, W. Attitude change: persuasion and social influence. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 51, 539–570 (2000).
Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 
Cialdini, R. B. & Trost, M. R. Social Influence: Social Norms, Conformity and Compliance. The handbook of social psychology, McGraw-Hill, 151–192 (1998).
Chaiken, S., Wood, W. & Eagly, A. H. Principles of Persuasion. Social psychology: Handbook of basic principles. Guilford, 702–742 (1996).
Chen, S., Shechter, D. & Chaiken, S. Getting at the truth or getting along: accuracy- versus impression-motivated heuristic and systematic processing. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 71, 262–275 (1996).
Article  Google Scholar 
Lundgren, S. R. & Prislin, R. Motivated cognitive processing and attitude change. Pers. Soc. Psychol. Bull. 24, 715–726 (1998).
Article  Google Scholar 
Petty, R. E. & Wegener, D. T. Matching versus mismatching attitude functions: implications for scrutiny of persuasive messages. Pers. Soc. Psychol. Bull. 24, 227–240 (1998).
Article  Google Scholar 
Tajfel, H. Social psychology of intergroup relations. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 33, 1–39 (1982).
Article  Google Scholar 
Turner, J. C. Social Influence (Thomson Brooks/Cole, 1991).
Flache, A. Models of social influence: towards the next frontiers. J. Artif. Soc. Soc. Simul. https://doi.org/10.18564/jasss.3521 (2017).
Aral, S. & Walker, D. Creating social contagion through viral product design: a randomized trial of peer influence in networks. Manag. Sci. 57, 1623–1639 (2011).
Article  Google Scholar 
Aral, S. & Walker, D. Identifying influential and susceptible members of social networks. Science 337, 337–341 (2012).
Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 
Bakshy, E., Eckles, D., Yan, R. & Rosenn, I. Social influence in social advertising: evidence from field experiments. In Proc. 13th ACM Conference on Electronic Commerce 146–161 (ACM, 2012); https://doi.org/10.1145/2229012.2229027
Aral, S. & Walker, D. Tie strength, embeddedness, and social influence: a large-scale networked experiment. Manag. Sci. 60, 1352–1370 (2014).
Article  Google Scholar 
Tucker, C. Social Advertising: How Advertising that Explicitly Promotes Social Influence Can Backfire. SSRN https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1975897 (2016).
Bakshy, E., Rosenn, I., Marlow, C. & Adamic, L. The role of social networks in information diffusion. In Proc. 21st International Conference on World Wide Web 519–528 (ACM, 2012).
Bapna, R. & Umyarov, A. Do your online friends make you pay? A randomized field experiment on peer influence in online social networks. Manag. Sci. 61, 1902–1920 (2015).
Article  Google Scholar 
Luc, J. G. Y. et al. Does tweeting improve citations? One-year results from the TSSMN prospective randomized trial. Ann. Thorac. Surg. 111, 296–300 (2021).
Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 
Forman, C., Ghose, A. & Wiesenfeld, B. Examining the relationship between reviews and sales: the role of reviewer identity disclosure in electronic markets. Inf. Syst. Res. 19, 291–313 (2008).
Article  Google Scholar 
Ma, M. & Agarwal, R. Through a glass darkly: information technology design, identity verification, and knowledge contribution in online communities. Inf. Syst. Res. 18, 42–67 (2007).
Article  Google Scholar 
Shalizi, C. R. & Thomas, A. C. Homophily and contagion are generically confounded in observational social network studies. Sociol. Methods Res. 40, 211–239 (2011).
Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 
Toubia, O. & Stephen, A. T. Intrinsic vs. image-related utility in social media: why do people contribute content to twitter? Mark. Sci. 32, 368–392 (2013).
Article  Google Scholar 
Taylor, S. J., Bakshy, E. & Aral, S. Selection effects in online sharing: consequences for peer adoption. In ACM Conference on Electronic Commerce 821–836 (ACM, 2013); https://doi.org/10.1145/2492002.2482604
Bertrand, M. & Mullainathan, S. Are Emily and Greg more employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A field experiment on labor market discrimination. Am. Econ. Rev. 94, 991–1013 (2004).
Article  Google Scholar 
Edelman, B., Luca, M. & Svirsky, D. Racial discrimination in the sharing economy: evidence from a field experiment. Am. Econ. J. Appl. Econ. 9, 1–22 (2017).
Article  Google Scholar 
Hu, N., Zhang, J. & Pavlou, P. A. Overcoming the J-shaped distribution of product reviews. Commun. ACM 52, 144–147 (2009).
Article  Google Scholar 
Kahneman, D., Sibony, O. & Sunstein, C. R. Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment (Little, Brown, 2021).
Bourdieu, P. in: Handbook for Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education (ed. Richardson, J.). Greenwood Press, 241–258 (1986).
Throsby, D. Cultural capital. J. Cult. Econ. 23, 3–12 (1999).
Article  Google Scholar 
Putnam, R. The prosperous community: social capital and public life. The American Prospect https://prospect.org/infrastructure/prosperous-community-social-capital-public-life (1993).
Lin, C.-S. & Chen, Y.-F. Examining social tagging behaviour and the construction of an online folksonomy from the perspectives of cultural capital and social capital. J. Inf. Sci. 38, 540–557 (2012).
Article  Google Scholar 
Simon, H.A. On a class of skew distribution functions. Biometrika 42, 425–440 (1955).
Article  Google Scholar 
Merton, R. K. The Matthew effect in science. Science 159, 56–63 (1968).
Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 
Barabási, A.-L. & Albert, R. Emergence of scaling in random networks. Science 286, 509–512 (1999).
Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 
Salganik, M. J., Dodds, P. S. & Watts, D. J. Experimental study of inequality and unpredictability in an artificial cultural market. Science 311, 854–856 (2006).
Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 
Van de Rijt, A. Self-correcting dynamics in social influence processes. Am. J. Sociol. 124, 1468–1495 (2019).
Article  Google Scholar 
Berry, G. & Taylor, S. J. Discussion quality diffuses in the digital public square. In Proc. 26th International Conference on World Wide Web 1371–1380 (ACM, 2017); https://doi.org/10.1145/3038912.3052666
Taylor, S. J. & Eckles, D. in Complex Spreading Phenomena in Social Systems (eds Lehmann, S. & Ahn, Y. Y.) 289–322 (Springer, 2018); https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-77332-2_16
Sun, T. & Taylor, S. J. Displaying things in common to encourage friendship formation: a large randomized field experiment. Quant. Mark. Econ. 18, 237–271 (2020).
Article  Google Scholar 
Download references
We thank members of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy for valuable feedback. L.M. acknowledges support from the Israel Science Foundation (Grant 2566/21) and the David Goldman Data-Driven Innovation Research Centre for supporting this research. The authors received no specific funding for this work.
Independent Researcher, Oakland, CA, USA
Sean J. Taylor
The Hebrew University Business School, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel
Lev Muchnik
Microsoft Research, Herzliya, Israel
Lev Muchnik
MIT Sloan School of Management, Cambridge, MA, USA
Madhav Kumar & Sinan Aral
You can also search for this author in PubMed Google Scholar
You can also search for this author in PubMed Google Scholar
You can also search for this author in PubMed Google Scholar
You can also search for this author in PubMed Google Scholar
S.J.T., L.M. and S.A. performed the research design and data analysis. S.J.T., M.K. and S.A. did the writing.
Correspondence to Sinan Aral.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Nature Human Behaviour thanks Johan Ugander, Marijn Keijzer and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Supplementary Sections A.1–A.7, Figs. B3–B7 and Tables C3–C5.
Springer Nature or its licensor (e.g. a society or other partner) holds exclusive rights to this article under a publishing agreement with the author(s) or other rightsholder(s); author self-archiving of the accepted manuscript version of this article is solely governed by the terms of such publishing agreement and applicable law.
Reprints and Permissions
Taylor, S.J., Muchnik, L., Kumar, M. et al. Identity effects in social media. Nat Hum Behav (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-022-01459-8
Download citation
Received:
Accepted:
Published:
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-022-01459-8
Anyone you share the following link with will be able to read this content:
Sorry, a shareable link is not currently available for this article.

Provided by the Springer Nature SharedIt content-sharing initiative

Advertisement
Nature Human Behaviour (Nat Hum Behav) ISSN 2397-3374 (online)
© 2022 Springer Nature Limited
Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

source

Hire me on the World’s Leading Online Marketplace Freelancer.com to design your website. Additional services like- graphic design, virtual assistance, SEO, Data entry, etc are available. Click on This Link to start your project

Write a comment