Deception or collaboration: how do we behave when faced with online rating systems?

As a social animal, human beings communicate with and influence their fellow creatures by leaving digital traces on the Internet, in particular by using star rating systems on collaborative platforms. Many e-commerce sites use this technique to enable users to share their hotel or restaurant experience, for example. But under what conditions can these traces enable a group to cooperate, and can we trust them?

In order to analyse the behaviour of humans confronted with this type of device, Guy Theraulaz, Thomas Bessanetti and Ramon Escobedo (CRCA-CBI) and their colleagues from the University of Toulouse III - Paul Sabatier and the Toulouse School of Economics have developed a web application reproducing these rating mechanisms and enabling them to be studied in a controlled setting.

Two conditions were tested for this game. The first rewarded participants indifferently. They then adopted a predominantly collaborative behaviour that enabled them to succeed individually thanks to the information contained in the traces left by the group. Conversely, in a competitive environment, they adopted predominantly neutral and deceptive behaviour, favouring the sharing of unreliable information. These studies highlight the conditions that enable humans to develop collective intelligence.

© Photo : David Villa – ScienceImage/CBI/CNRS

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Guy Théraulaz