Information Cascades in…Everything?

Every day we make choices, we make seemingly simple choice, and we make some life altering choices as well. Being social creatures we are constantly impacted by those around us through normative pressures. These pressures come from our friends, our larger social groups, and our cultures. From these social pressures we often make decisions based off of what we observe, especially when we are on the fence as to what decision to make. This cascade is illustrated throughout the study networks and conformity as studied in social psychology.

We may see the subtle signs of information cascades in our daily lives without ever really noticing it. Take finance for example. You are constantly hear about the stock market prices and their fluctuations, which broadly speaking are based off of peoples private information combined with the public knowledge and each individual basing their action off of those of the other investors. Normally prices fluctuate without having devastating effects, however, sometimes these cascades can form leading to prices plummeting. In the economist article on Mass Movement Information Cascades they talk about how these perceptions of others actions lead to this herd behavior causing prices to plummet. The formation of these information cascades can also be seen in protests.

At college campuses, government offices, and all places in between protests often arise of varying sizes. The growth and power of these protests is often due to information cascades especially with the emergence of new social media technology like twitter. When individuals are on the fence about topics but their news feeds are blowing up about a protest they are receiving information pushing them towards supporting the cause. This can also be seen when people come into frequent contact with protesters they are convince into joining which can lead to these cascade effects and rapidly growing protests. Information cascades have many more daily implications than that including college drinking, athletics, and fashion to name a just to name a few.



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