Comparing the diversity of information by word-of-mouth vs. web spread

Alon Sela, Louis Shekhtman, Shlomo Havlin, Irad Ben-Gal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Many studies have explored spreading and diffusion through complex networks. The following study examines a specific case of spreading of opinions in modern society through two spreading schemes - defined as being either through "word of mouth" (WOM), or through online search engines (WEB). We apply both modelling and real experimental results and compare the opinions people adopt through an exposure to their friend's opinions, as opposed to the opinions they adopt when using a search engine based on the PageRank algorithm. A simulated study shows that when members in a population adopt decisions through the use of the WEB scheme, the population ends up with a few dominant views, while other views are barely expressed. In contrast, when members adopt decisions based on the WOM scheme, there is a far more diverse distribution of opinions in that population. The simulative results are further supported by an online experiment which finds that people searching information through a search engine end up with far more homogenous opinions as compared to those asking their friends.

Original languageEnglish
Article number58003
JournalEurophysics Letters
Volume114
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2016

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