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How Ideas Spread on Social Media

Berkeley Haas Assistant Professor Douglas Guilbeault conducted an experiment to test how ideas spread on social media. They also studied the effect of good and bad ideas and groupthink on social media.

Guilbeault’s research revealed that it is relatively easy to affect people’s opinions through social media because of groupthink. Regardless of whether the idea is good, bad, or even wrong, it can gain traction and popularity through social media. Even if that idea is perpetuated by bots or artificial users, popular choices dictated how ideas spread on social media.

To arrive at this conclusion, Guilbeault and his colleagues used Rorschach blots. They asked people to identify what they saw. The research shows that when a small group of people were asked for their perceptions of the Rorschach blots, there were many variations. But as the size of the group increased the variations in perceptions decreased. And when bots were introduced to the study, people’s perceptions leaned towards the bots’ answers.

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