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Burkina Faso’s Uprise and Direct-benefit effects

Recently, the revolution that is taking place Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in West Africa is all over the newspaper. As mentioned in this article, “Burkina Faso army seizes control of state TV headquarters”, in the nation of Burkina, the government was just overthrown amongst a sea of protests and calls for reform. After the former president declared that he would continue to remain in office, people rebelled and seized key state sites in order to eliminate his power. What is remarkable about the overthrow of the government and what often occurs in many spontaneous revolutions is that people who have had little opinion of the government will often become pro-revolutionary because of information cascade mostly due to direct-benefit effects.

Direct-benefit effects suggest that people copy others’ behaviors or imitate others’ decisions because they will receive payoffs by doing so. In the case of Burkina Faso, people may have little knowledge about the opposing sides that are trying to take over the government. However, they do know that if they side with the party that can succeed, they will be given benefits after the government is taken over. In this case, people tend to follow their friends’ and family’s decision because as more people adopt the same choice, there’s a higher likelihood that the choice will lead to a successful result. Simple self-interest suggests that one should make the same decision once a sufficient number of people have done so. Therefore, people living in a country that is undergoing uprising tend to give support to the uprising force and hope that they can receive benefits once the government is taken over by the revolting force.

It’s important to note that such an explanation can also be applied to people who join terrorist groups, such as ISIS and fight for their “perceived benefits”. The “power of mob” can be easily formed once people around you start following a trend. As the resulting conditions of information cascades suggest, cascades can be incorrect and it they can be based on little information. As we cheer for increasing fight for liberty in certain countries thanks to information cascades, we also have to remember that information cascades is a double-edge sword; it works just as well to spread bad information.

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