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Is the “Harvey Effect” an Information Cascade?


People like to follow crowds. Think about the nature of virality, peer pressure, and the power of mob mentality. They are all examples of the phenomenon we have come to know as an information cascade. When learning about information cascades, I couldn’t help but think about the recent events that have come to light involving Harvey Weinstein. While this analytical interpretation may seem cold, I could help but think about the similarities. The article linked above discusses the so-called “Harvey Effect” — the result of a few people speaking up about abuse from powerful men seems to have caused an avalanche of victims speaking out. It is also noted that there are likely to be false accusations among the real ones, but I, along with the author, believe that it is better to have a few false accusations than to have no real accusations.

While the article never directly discusses information cascades, I can see that there are parallels to be made. It seems that, from a cursory observation, after a few people shared their stories (information, for the sake of the cascade), more followed. There is information that is kept private, but the information shared is what drives more people to follow suit and share their stories, similar to our example in class involving balls and urns. The network of victims (whether they shared their stories or not) can also be paralleled to the example discussed in this class regarding doctors adopting new medicines. Victims seem more likely to “adopt” the behavior of coming forward as more victims (perhaps their neighboring nodes in this network) speak out.

The “Harvey Effect” definitely has some relation to networks. Perhaps if discern some of the specifics, we can encourage more victims to speak out about abuse–and not just from these “powerful” men.


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