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EMAC 2020 Annual Conference

Releasing the brake: How disinhibition frees people and facilitates innovation diffusion

Published: May 27, 2020


Hans Risselada, University of Groningen; Jan Willem Bolderdijk, University of Groningen; Zan Mlakar, University of Groningen; Bob Fennis, University of Groningen; Mengbin Ye, Faculty of Science and Engineering, University of Groningen; Lorenzo Zino, University of Groningen


diffusion; impression management; agent-based model


In this paper, we focus on a new aspect of the diffusion process that can help explain the virality of online new product campaigns. We propose that the sense of anonymity associated with being online liberates people from impression management concerns. This facilitates individuals to express themselves more freely at the individual level, in turn having a major accelerating on diffusion at the group level. We tested our hypothesis with a novel experimental paradigm as well as via an agent-based model (ABM). Participants in the experiment were tasked with coordinating on a product selection and confederates acted as a minority trying to spread the innovative product. The ABM mirrored the experimental game using an agent-level social payoff function. Across both empirical settings, we found that individuals are more likely to explore novelties in anonymous settings, which allows societies to reach the tipping points that are required for innovations to diffuse more easily.