A debate team’s reward usually comes in the form of a trophy; however, in today’s online world, recognition for winning a debate is a small and valuable symbol.
Online discussions on platforms such as Reddit and GitHub have grown in popularity with these platforms rewarding participation with virtual symbols. These rewards have become a powerful motivator for participation, but do they infringe on a fair discussion?
In new research from Cornell, professors used machine learning to examine 1 million online discussions, and they determined that the persuasive power of “symbolic status” from virtual badges and titles has the potential to create an imbalance of power by favoring “high-status” users. They found that status has inherent persuasive power and significantly increases a user’s persuasion rate over and above the content of their arguments and ultimately undermines the principles of authentic deliberation.