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‘Herd effect’ skews online rating systems, study finds

Psychology, Technology, networks, norms

How much do you trust the online ratings of articles and posts on websites? New research suggests high positive ratings may not be a true reflection of an item’s value or quality, but are partly due to “herd” effects, where people end up liking something that is already well liked by others.

Negative ratings, on the other hand, do not seem to have affect the overall rating of an item, since other users seemed more likely to “correct” these with positive ratings further down the line, according to a study of tens of thousands of comments on a news aggregation website.

The findings have implications for how consumers interpret positive ratings for comments, articles or products on websites and also how ratings websites design their platforms to avoid fraud and manipulation by organisations that would seek to artificially boost a product’s perceived appeal.

Ratings are used on many websites, from Amazon to Reddit, where users vote on whether they like or dislike an article, product or online comment. The ratings are often used to rank the perceived online appeal of those items.

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