Choosing people: the role of social capital in information seeking behaviour

Catherine A. Johnson

It is an almost universal finding in studies investigating human information behaviour that people choose other people as their preferred source of information. An explanation for the use of people as information sources is that they are easier to approach than more formal sources and therefore are a least effort option. However there have been few studies that have investigated who the people chosen as information sources are and what their relationship to the information seeker is. This paper reports findings that come out of a larger investigation of the information seeking behaviour of a random sample of residents of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Using the theory of social capital as a conceptual framework and the methods of social network analysis, this study investigated the relational factors associated with the choice of people as information sources. Results indicate that respondents chose people who had better resources than they had and were not well known by them. This suggests that respondents were deliberate in their choice of people information sources and therefore it is speculated that people are not necessarily the least effort option but may require considerable effort to seek out and consult.

Created:Wed, 27 Oct 2004 01:49:22 GMT

Posted: October 26, 2004, 7:49 pm


By Walden and Browne
This work presents a theory of information cascades, based on the work of Bikhchandi, Hirschleifer, and Welch
(1992), to explain fad-like behavior in the adoption of new technology. An information cascade occurs when
an individual ignores his or her own private signal about the value of a technology and relies, instead, upon
the observed actions of others. This can lead to serious problems if the observed actions in question are based
on still other observed actions rather than private signals. The present research provides an operational model
to assess information cascade theory and empirically tests the model in the context of the adoption of electronic
commerce technologies. The results suggest that information cascades play a large role in the adoption of such
Created:Sun, 24 Oct 2004 11:35:04 GMT

Posted: October 24, 2004, 5:35 am

Conversation, Observational Learning, and Informational Cascades

H. Henry Cao and David Hirshleifer
We offer a model to explain why groups of people sometimes converge upon poor decisions
and are prone to fads, even though they can discuss the outcomes of their choices.
Models of informational herding or cascades have examined how rational individuals learn
by observing predecessors’ actions, and show that when individuals stop using their own private
signals, improvements in decision quality cease. A literature on word-of-mouth learning
shows how observation of outcomes as well as actions can cause convergence upon correct
decisions. However, the assumptions of these models differ considerably from those of the
cascades/herding literature. In a setting which adds ‘conversational’ learning about both
the payoff outcomes of predecessors to a basic cascades model, we describe conditions under
which (1) cascades/herding occurs with probability one; (2) once started there is a positive
probability (generally less than one) that a cascade lasts forever; (3) cascades aggregate
information inefficiently and are fragile; (4) the ability to observe past payoffs can reduce
average decision accuracy and welfare; and (5) delay in observation of payoffs can improve
average accuracy and welfare.
Created:Sun, 24 Oct 2004 11:32:19 GMT

Posted: October 24, 2004, 5:32 am