Leading the Herd astray: An experimental study of self-fulfilling prophecies in an artificial cultural market

Matthew J. Salganik, Duncan J. Watts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

128 Scopus citations

Abstract

Individuals influence each others ' decisions about cultural products such as songs, books, and movies; but to what extent can the perception of success become a "self-fulfilling prophecy"? We have explored this question experimentally by artificially inverting the true popularity of songs in an online "music market," in which 12,207 participants listened to and downloaded songs by unknown bands. We found that most songs experienced self-fulfilling prophecies, in which perceived - but initially false - popularity became real over time. We also found, however, that the inversion was not self-fulfilling for the market as a whole, in part because the very best songs recovered their popularity in the long run. Moreover, the distortion of market information reduced the correlation between appeal and popularity, and led to fewer overall downloads. These results, although partial and speculative, suggest a new approach to the study of cultural markets, and indicate the potential of web-based experiments to explore the social psychological origin of other macrosociologlcal phenomena.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)338-355
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Psychology Quarterly
Volume71
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Leading the Herd astray: An experimental study of self-fulfilling prophecies in an artificial cultural market'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this