Using Social Psychology to Motivate Contributions to Online Communities

This paper is part of the CommunityLab Project

Gerard Beenen, Kimberly Ling, Xiaoqing Wang, Klarissa Chang, Dan Frankowski, Paul Resnick, Robert E. Kraut. In Proceedings of ACM CSCW 2004 Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, Chicago, IL. 2004. pp. 212-221. Camera-ready prepublicaiton version (PDF format).


A revised expanded version appears as:

Ling, K., Beenen, G., Ludford, P., Wang, X., Chang, K., Cosley, D., Frankowski, D., Terveen, L., Rashid, A. M., Resnick, P., and Kraut, R. (2005). Using social psychology to motivate contributions to online communities. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 10(4), article 10. Available online


Under-contribution is a problem for many online communities. Social psychology theories of social loafing and goal setting can provide mid-level design principles to address this problem. We tested the design principles in two field experiments. In one, members of an online movie recommender community were reminded of the uniqueness of their contributions and the benefits that follow from them. In the second, they were given a range of individual or group goals for contribution. As predicted by theory, individuals contributed when they were reminded of their uniqueness and when they were given specific and challenging goals, but other predictions were not borne out. The paper ends with suggestions and challenges for mining social science theories as well as implications for design.