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Research:Anonymity and conformity over the net

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This page documents a completed research project.

Key Personnel[edit]

Project Summary[edit]

The effects of anonymity on groups online vary between the circumstances that exist in social networking media today but lacks significant research on the differences between the anonymity states that could exist online. This paper tries to explore these differences between the anonymity states and the effects on group behavior, especially group-think. Understanding if people would behave in a different manner under different anonymity states could improve the decision making process for online groups. A direct implication of this is that it could also make the choice easier for software engineers that need to decide if and how they should provide anonymity to their users. This could improve the results from the decision making groups and their efficiency in general.

Exploratory study has been conducted in a convenience sample on Facebook but the results need to be confirmed with more rigorous sampling methods.


This study requires from the participants to fill in a survey in English. The survey is an invite only survey (each participant receives their unique link) and the sample is random, each active editor has a chance of being selected for the survey. Hence, response rates will be measured according to how many of the participants completed the final questionnaire. The pilot study sample is 15 people. The sample size could be anywhere from 150-300 (to be determined after the pilot study) users that actually respond to the survey. Currently the survey was designed with the author's php/javascript/html knowledge and hosted on the author's server.

  • Participants will receive an invitation on their personal talk page.
  • The incentive that will be given to the participants is one of knowledge. Once the data are processed the results will be sent to them personally.
  • Participants that didn't complete the survey may be notified a second time after 15 days to increase response rates.
  • All participants that will request to opt-out of the survey will not receive a second notification
  • In addition any participants that explicitly requested not to participate in surveys and exist in a list provided from the Research Committee of the Wikipedia will be excluded from the sample.


Results on the study can be found on the published article:

Tsikerdekis, M. (2013), The effects of perceived anonymity and anonymity states on conformity and groupthink in online communities: A Wikipedia study. J. Am. Soc. Inf. Sci.. doi: 10.1002/asi.22795

The article can be found here: Published article on Wiley library

A preprint version is also archived at the author's website: Preprint with final corrections

Datasets can be found on the author's website as well: Quantitative and Qualitative datasets


Datasets will be shared. If it is before or after the analysis or publication is left to the Wikipedia Committee's decision to decide what is best. Results will also be published on relevant wikipedia page's for groupthink, conformity, anynomity etc.

Wikimedia Policies, Ethics, and Human Subjects Protection[edit]

This study is part of Dissertation thesis proposal that has been approved by the Doctoral Committee of Masaryk University, Faculty of Informatics. There are no foreseeable dangers or ethical issues that may arise from this study.

Benefits for the Wikimedia community[edit]

Understanding how people collaborate under different anonymity states and if there are any differences between those anonymity states is important for the development and improvement of the over collaborative community that Wikipedia is.

As an example, the final review process of this research and other proposals on wikimedia sites are governed by the rules of conformity and may be affected by the choices that people make with their profiles(nickname, real name or even anonymous). Understanding how anonymity affects the voting procedures is important for having a better collaborative community.


January 3rd, 2012 - Research approved by the Wikimedia Foundation Research Committee.

January 4th, 2012 - Pilot study invitations sent to 15 random active editors. (see Methods).

January 19th, 2012 - A second and final notification was sent to the selected editors of the pilot study. The current response rate is: 7/15 (~47%)

January 26th, 2012 - Final response rate 8/15 (53%). Final corrections were made to the survey according to the pilot report.

February 2nd, 2012 - Process of sending invitations for the main stage of the survey has been initiated. Invitations will be sent in increments.

  • 50 invitations sent on the 2nd of February, 2012
  • 50 invitations sent on the 3rd of February, 2012
  • 50 invitations sent on the 4th of February, 2012
  • 50 invitations sent on the 5th of February, 2012

February 13th, 2012 - Second notification sending process initiated. Participants that removed the invitations from their talk page did not receive a second notification as well as participants that answered to their invitations on their talk page.

  • 50 notifications sent to participants on the 13th of February, 2012
  • 50 notifications sent to participants on the 14th of February, 2012
  • 50 notifications sent to participants on the 15th of February, 2012
  • 50 notifications sent to participants on the 16th of February, 2012

February 22nd, 2012 - An additional 50 participant sample drawn from the original population sample has been added in order to improve the accuracy of between anonymity states comparison analysis per each scenario.

March 22nd, 2012 - Study officially has ended.

March 31st, 2012 - Paper sent for publication, some results were published in the talk page.

August 3rd, 2012 - Research article was accepted for publication on the Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

September 24th, 2012 - Datasets made public and can be found here

March 8th, 2013 - Article was published online on JASIST and can be found here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/asi.22795/abstract


There is no funding for this research survey and all processes are conducted with the author's own efforts.


References that could relate to this study:

  • Asch, S.E., 1951. Groups, leadership and men.. Pittsburgh, PA: Carnegie Press.. chapter Effects of group pressure upon the modification and distortion of judgment.
  • Asch, S.E., 1955. Opinions and social pressure. Scientific American Vol. 193, No. 5, 31–35.
  • Cline, R.J.W., 1990. Detecting groupthink: Methods for observing the illusion of unanimity. Communication Quarterly Vol. 38, No. 2, 112–126.
  • Dawes, J., 2008. Do Data Characteristics Change According to the Number of Scale Points Used? International Journal of Market Research Vol. 50, No. 1, 61–77.
  • Farkas, C., Ziegler, G., Meretei, A., L ̈rincz, A., 2002. Anonymity and acocountability in self-organizing electronic communities, in: Proceedings of 7 the 2002 ACM workshop on Privacy in the Electronic Society, ACM, New York, NY, USA. pp. 81–90.
  • Janis, I.L., 1972. Victims of groupthink: A psychological study of foreign-policy decisions and fiascoes. Houghton, Mifflin.
  • Janis, I.L., Mann, L., 1977. Decision making: A psychological analysis of conflict, choice, and commitment. New York, NY, US: Free Press.
  • Lea, M., Spears, R., de Groot, D., 2001. Knowing me, knowing you: Anonymity effects on social identity processes within groups. Pers Soc Psychol Bull Vol. 27, No. 5, 526–537. Doi: 10.1177/0146167201275002.
  • McCauley, C., 1989. The nature of social influence in groupthink: Compliance and internalization. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Vol. 57, No. 2, 250–260. Doi:10.1037/0022-3514.57.2.250.
  • McLeod, P.L., Baron, R.S., Marti, M.W., Yoon, K., 1997. The eyes have it: Minority influence in face-to-face and computer-mediated group discussion.Journal of Applied Psychology Vol. 82, No. 5, 706–718.
  • Norman, G., 2010. Likert scales, levels of measurement and the laws of statistics. Advances in Health Sciences Education Vol. 15, No. 5, 625–632.10.1007/s10459-010-9222-y.
  • Pinsonneault, A., Heppel, N., 1997. Anonymity in group support systems research: a new conceptualization, measure, and contingency framework.Journal of Management Information Systems Vol. 14, No. 3, 89–108.
  • Ptzmann, A., Hansen, M., 2010. Anonymity, unlinkability, undetectability, unobservability, pseudonymity, and identity management (a consolidated proposal for terminology). Http://dud.inf.tudresden.de/AnonTerminology.shtml. Version 0.34.
  • Rains, S.A., 2007. The impact of anonymity on perceptions of source credibility and influence in computer-mediated group communication: A test of two competing hypotheses. Communication Research Vol. 34, No. 1, 100–125. Doi: 10.1177/0093650206296084.
  • Tsikerdekis, M., 2011. Engineering anonymity to reduce aggression online., in: Blashki, K. (Ed.), Proceedings of the IADIS International Conference}

External links[edit]