Web-based experiment

In 2006 Watts and Salganic designed a web-based experiment to examine how much social influence determines the popularity of music. To study what made some songs successful than others they created a project called Music Lab. More than 14 000 people listened songs, rated them and downloaded them if they wanted. The average rating provided a measure of quality and the number of downloads provided a measure of popularity.

It’s very important that the social scientists were be able to control and to change the rating and the number of downloads it means they could effectively turn on or turn off a social influence.

In general the results strongly support the idea that social influence has a huge effect on the decision making. It seems like many of us follow the herd like sheep. This is the first conclusion. And the second is that the social influences multiply change effects into lasting differences, and the experts fail to predict successes not because they are incompetent, but accidents determine the songs at top of the chart as much as true quality.

With the vast increase in computing power and the almost limitless pool of participants now available via the internet the social scientists can conduct experiments involving thousands or even millions participants.