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Post 2 – Election and Information Effects

Our president for the next term was just chosen, and the internet is full of news, coverage and data on the election. One interesting article was on the spread and conveyance of information and how it effects voters’ decisions. This article ( makes a variety of arguments that can be connected to what we learned about information effects in Networks.

Information benefits arise from having the opportunity to learn from others’ decisions and benefitting from compatibility. In class we talked about how going to a restaurant because it is full instead of one next door that is empty is a portrayal of informational effects. This is because the person choosing the restaurant is assuming that the people going to the restaurant have some information that he does not. He is indirectly benefitting from other customers’ information and decisions by getting to eat at a (most likely) better restaurant.

The author of this article, Larry M. Bartels, talks about the amount of information most voters have, and how it is unlikely that most voters are fully informed. However, through talking to others and listening to opinions, they are able to act as though they are fully informed. He calls this the use of “information shortcuts.” He writes, “People probably do not need large amounts of information to make rational voting choices. Cues from like-minded citizens and groups may be sufficient, in an environment where accurate information in available” (p. 198). This is interesting and important because the author is arguing that to make a rational decision, it is almost okay to not be fully informed. Conversing with people who are like you will make you enough of an informed voter to reach a decision for yourself. This is an example of information effects because voters are using other voters’ decisions to benefit themselves. Similar to the case with the restaurant, where a person presumed that customers at a popular restaurant had some information he didn’t, a voter can utilize others’ information to benefit himself.

I ask the question: does this form an incorrect information cascade? In answering this question I thought about my own decision to vote for one of the presidential candidates. Most people whom I associate with wanted this candidate to win, and I voted for the same candidate. Whether I voted for him because he is who I would have chosen or because other peoples’ opinions have meshed with mine is up for debate.   I would argue that although choosing a presidential candidate may form a sort of an information cascade at times, it does not make for an incorrect one. This is because most people with whom I associate have similar values and behaviors as I do, and unless I heard something about a candidate that seemed completely off, I would likely agree with their opinions. If I am to explain my newly found views and opinions to someone else, and they agree, they are continuing the information cascade. They are using information that I found to their benefit.



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