What makes you choose to click on a link, to view an article or to share something on Facebook? Usually it’s because you think you will find the content informative or funny but with social media recommendations becoming the main way that we find things online we now have to judge how much we listen to our often misguided friends.
A new study by Huberman and Zhu, 2014 has looked as how much other people’s opinions affect our online choices.
First of all the participants were asked to make a choice out of two potential pieces of online content. Then later on in the study they were exposed to other people’s opinions about the content after which the participants were asked if they wanted to change their choice.
The results showed that other people’s opinions have a significant effect on the choices that people make online. When asked a little while after their first choice and after being exposed to other people’s opinions 22.4% of participants changed their mind about what they wanted to view. When they were asked immediately after their first choice however that figure was less at 14.1%.
It also seems as though the more time participants took making their first decision was the biggest factor as to whether people would change their minds later on rather than things such as age and gender.
Another interesting finding from this study was that people were more likely to change their mind with only a moderate amount of pressure to change rather than a large amount.
This goes some way to explaining the rise of social media over emails as the new advertising favourite. Emails are, or seem like, direct messages to you and when sent over and over again it can seem like you are under pressure personally. When you receive messages through a social media networks about products you can see more clearly that they are directed at a group which could take some pressure away from you and allow you to make decisions without feeling hassled. Something to be self-conscious about when you next see an advert or a piece of recommended content online, how much pressure do you feel?