Social influence: The puzzling nature of success in cultural markets

Matthew J. Salganik, Duncan J. Watts

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

8 Scopus citations


This article examines the role of social influence in the puzzling nature of success in cultural markets: successful cultural products, such as hit songs, best-selling books, and blockbuster movies, are considerably more successful than average; yet which particular songs, books, and movies will become the next ‘big thing’ appears impossible to predict. The article investigates this paradox empirically by constructing a website where more than 27,000 participants were allowed to listen to, rate, and download new music, and where the information that these participants had about the behavior of others could be controlled. In the first three experiments, the popularity of the songs were allowed to emerge naturally, without any intervention. In the fourth experiment, the problem of self-fulfilling prophecies in cultural markets was addressed. The results show that social influence gives rise to unanticipated consequences at the collective level, including inequality and unpredictability of success.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Analytical Sociology
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)9780199215362
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)


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