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Keep It Simple: A Field Experiment on Information Sharing in Social Networks

Catia Batista

Universidade Nova de Lisboa

Marcel Fafchamps

Stanford University

Pedro Vicente

Universidade Nova de Lisboa

ISSN 2183-0843
Working Paper No 1801
June 2018

Abstract

In this paper, we study information sharing through text messages among rural Mozambicans with access to mobile money. For this purpose, we conducted a lab-in-the-field experiment involving exogeneously assigned information links. In the base game mobile money
users receive an SMS containing information on how to redeem a voucher for mobile money. They are then given an opportunity to share this information with other subjects. We find that participants have a low propensity to redeem the voucher. They nonetheless share the
information with others, and many subjects share information they do not use themselves, consistent with warm glow. We observe that there is more information sharing when communication is entirely anonymous, and we uncover no evidence of homophily in information sharing. We introduce various treatments: varying the cost of information sharing; being shamed for not sending vouchers; and allowing subjects to appropriate (part of) the value of the shared information. All these treatments decrease information sharing. The main implication is that, to encourage information sharing, the best is to keep it simple.

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