Humans rely more on algorithms than social influence as a task becomes more difficult

Sci Rep. 2021 Apr 13;11(1):8028. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-87480-9.


Algorithms have begun to encroach on tasks traditionally reserved for human judgment and are increasingly capable of performing well in novel, difficult tasks. At the same time, social influence, through social media, online reviews, or personal networks, is one of the most potent forces affecting individual decision-making. In three preregistered online experiments, we found that people rely more on algorithmic advice relative to social influence as tasks become more difficult. All three experiments focused on an intellective task with a correct answer and found that subjects relied more on algorithmic advice as difficulty increased. This effect persisted even after controlling for the quality of the advice, the numeracy and accuracy of the subjects, and whether subjects were exposed to only one source of advice, or both sources. Subjects also tended to more strongly disregard inaccurate advice labeled as algorithmic compared to equally inaccurate advice labeled as coming from a crowd of peers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Decision Making*
  • Humans
  • Judgment*
  • Social Media