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Social influence and the Matthew mechanism

In this article Post. Doc Miia Bask and her co-writer Mikael Bask (Uppsala University) examins if the Matthew effect, or Matthew mechanism, was present in the artificial cultural market Music Lab when social influence between individuals was allowed, and contrary, if this was not the case when social influence was not allowed.

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Salganik, Dodds and Watts (Science 2006) created the artificial cultural market Music Lab in which more than 14,000 individuals participated. The participants were asked to listen to, rate, and, if they chose, download songs by bands they had never heard of. One group of individuals did not receive any information about the popularity, in the form of download statistics, of different songs, whereas this information was given to individuals in eight other groups, or worlds,? in the experiment.

The aim of this experimental design was for the former group of individuals to determine the quality of the songs, whereas the individuals in the different "worlds" determined the success of the songs, allowing for social influence between individuals.

Article published in "Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications"

In an article in Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Miia Bask from the department of sociology, with co-author Mikael Bask, show that the Matthew effect, or Matthew mechanism, was present in the artificial cultural market Music Lab in one-fourth of the "worlds" when social influence between individuals was allowed, whereas this effect was not present in the "world" that disallowed social influence between individuals. They also sketch on a class of social network models, derived from social influence theory, that may generate the Matthew effect. Thus, they propose a theoretical framework that may explain why the most popular songs could be much more popular, and the least popular songs could be much less popular, than when disallowing social influence between individuals.

Read the full article here