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Modeling the role of influencers in shaping fads

Picture of a person wearing blue jeans

A new study offers up a more realistic modeling of the rise and fall of fads as culture evolves and is transmitted to new generations, including an examination of the role “influencers” play in shaping what’s popular.

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Sep 8 2021

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Research, Faculty, Students

Researchers who study cultural evolution and transmission have long tried to answer these sorts of questions, seeking to get a handle on why trends, behaviors and ideas emerge and grow dominant within populations. One major factor, studies have shown, are the decisions of others.

“We hope this new approach can help bridge the gap between idealized models and real-world outcomes, which is important in gaining a deeper understanding of the population-level consequences of cultural transmission biases,” said study first author Kaleda Denton, a PhD student in the laboratory of Marcus Feldman, the Burnet C. and Mildred Finley Wohlford Professor at the School of Humanities and Sciences.

“What Kaleda has done in this study is radically revise a widely used conformity model by incorporating time-dependent conformity,” said Feldman, the study’s senior author and also the director of the Morrison Institute for Population and Resource Studies, and co-director of the Center for Computational, Evolutionary and Human Genomics at Stanford.

The study published Aug. 24 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.