The study of social influence mechanisms in the field will be central to explore their relevance for human cooperation and possibilities to design context specific instruments targeting overall welfare while bridging between theory, lab findings and concrete applicable approaches. This field experiment addresses these aspects by investigating the contagion of prosocial behaviour in a transparent online environment and estimating the impact of a gift giving intervention on strangers. Employing a simple difference in differences method, two online gift exchange systems are observed as treatment (Aachen, Germany) and control group (Duisburg, Germany) over a two month period. Thus group members are observed in a natural environment while being unaware of the experiment taking place. Behavioural predictions are based on an integrative model for social contagion which describes structure and social influences of information-flows generated by group activity. Since moderating factors are key for social contagiousness a qualitative analysis of the online environment and proxy data on individual attributes supplement the analysis and provide a framework to put findings into perspective. Interestingly and in contrast to previous findings no support for contagious prosocial behaviour is found even after controlling for behavioural dynamics. Implications for future field and lab experiments are discussed alongside several design issues of this pilot study

Social intervention, Social contagion, Social influence, Cooperative behaviour, Upstream reciprocity, Third-party influence, Online networks
JTR Stoop
Economics of Management and Organisation
Erasmus School of Economics

W Schuchardt5. (2020, July 28). Is Prosocial Behaviour Contagious On Social Media Platforms?. Economics of Management and Organisation. Retrieved from