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Information Cascades and Sexual Misconduct in Hollywood

One of the most pressing topics in recent news has been the vast number of powerful men in Hollywood being accused of sexual misconduct, ranging from harassment to rape. The chain of allegations began when Harvey Weinstein, Hollywood film producer, was accused of sexual assault by an Italian actress. Following her accusation, multiple women came forward stating that they had experienced similar encounters with Weinstein. Through Twitter and public statements, the number of accusers grew to over 80 women.

 

Shortly after that, several other powerful men in the entertainment industry were accused of similar behavior, including Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K. In all of these men’s cases, a woman typically came forward with her accusation, prompting other women to come forward as well to accuse the same man. In most of these cases as well, the repercussions have been similar. Most of the men accused have resigned or been fired from their posts, or have had their current projects cancelled.

 

This chain of events that is still on-going today can be explained by the information cascade process. In an information cascade, a person typically observes the behavior of others in order to make a decision about his or her behavior in the same scenario or context. Sometimes, following the observed behavior might contradict that person’s private signals. In this case, we can see how information cascades took place when looking at the women who stepped forward to accuse men of sexual misconduct. Many of the events being brought up took place many years ago, but the people involved did not come forward. However, once one person took the leap and went public with his or her experience, others followed. It is possible that many of the women who were sexually assaulted did not feel safe or comfortable coming forward with their experiences. After seeing someone else do it first though, it became easier for them to step up too. Once 5 or 10 women have come forward with their accusations, a cascade follows where many other women follow that same behavior even though they may have previously thought it best to keep quiet.

 

We see a similar cascade with the repercussions the men accused faced. In the past, many men in powerful positions have been accused of sexual harassment and misconduct but it has been swept under the rug. When Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual assault by over 80 women, he was fired from his own company by the board of directors. This behavior was not so typical, as many men accused of sexual harassment rarely face serious consequences. Following this course of action, almost every other man who has recently been accused has been fired or suspended from their affiliated networks, companies and projects. These fallouts could be attributed to each following network or company following the behavior of The Weinstein Company in firing Harvey Weinstein, as they may not have taken these measures had they not observed the same behavior previously in the same situation.

 

Sources:

https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/harvey-weinstein-scandal/weinstein-here-s-growing-list-men-accused-sexual-misconduct-n816546

 

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