For empirical analysis, the researchers studied an online anime (Japanese cartoon) platform called MyAnimeList.net. This contained individual-level data on users' friendship networks, product adoptions, forum posts and ratings on anime series. The website serves as a gathering place for anime fans to share their enthusiasm and exchange opinions about anime series.
The researchers specifically explored how users responded to word-of-mouth dynamics and the anime watching decisions of other users based on observational data. They called the latter dynamic "observed adoptions."
They further distinguish between these dynamics at two network levels: those from their own personal friends (personal network) and those from all other members of the community (community network).
According to the study published in the journal, 'Marketing Science' researchers found that word-of-mouth referrals from the community network are the largest driver among the social learning forces they studied. And while word-of-mouth was more powerful than observed adoptions, both factors are significant in influencing social learning.
"While both word-of-mouth and observed adoptions are highly influential in affecting a person's social learning, our results show that each provides unique and different information that individuals use in their decision-making. Ultimately, we found that a person's community network is the primary source of information driving anime watching decisions and behaviours," said study author, Mina Ameri of the University of Pittsburgh's Katz Graduate School of Business.
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