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Competitive peer influence on knowledge contribution behaviors in online Q&A communities: a social comparison perspective

Chencheng Shi (Xi'an Jiaotong University, Xi'an, China)
Ping Hu (Xi'an Jiaotong University, Xi'an, China)
Weiguo Fan (University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USA)
Liangfei Qiu (University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA)

Internet Research

ISSN: 1066-2243

Article publication date: 20 June 2023




Users' knowledge contribution behaviors are critical for online Q&A communities to thrive. Well-organized question threads in online Q&A communities enable users to clearly read existing answers and their evaluations before contributing. Based on the social comparison and peer influence literature, the authors examine peer influence on the informativeness of knowledge contributions in competitive settings. The authors also consider three levels of moderating factors concerning individuals' perception of competitiveness: question level, thread level and contributor level.


The authors collected data from one of the largest online Q&A communities in China. The hypotheses were validated using hierarchical linear models with cross-classified random effects. The generalized propensity score weighting method was employed for the robustness check.


The authors demonstrate the peer influence due to social comparison concerns among knowledge contribution behaviors in the same question thread. If more prior knowledge contributors choose to contribute long answers in the question thread, the subsequent contributions are more informative. This peer influence is stronger for factual questions and questions with higher popularity of answering but weaker in recommendation-type and well-answered questions and for contributors with higher social status.


This research provides a new cue of peer influence on online UGC contributions in competitive settings initiated by social comparison concerns. Additionally, the authors identify three levels of moderating factors (question level, thread level and contributor level) that are specific to online Q&A settings and are related to a contributor's perception of competitiveness, which affect the direct effect of peer influence on knowledge contributions. Rather than focus on motivation and quality evaluation, the authors concentrate on the specific content of online knowledge contributions. Peer influence here is not based on an actual acquaintance or a following relationship but on answering the same question. The authors also illustrate the competitive peer influence in subjective and personalized behaviors in online UGC communities.



The authors would like to express our gratitude to the Editor-in-Chief, Christy M. K. Cheung, the anonymous Associate Editor and the anonymous review team for their constructive guidance on the manuscript. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 13th China Summer Workshop on Information Management (CSWIM 2019). The authors thank the participants of the conference for their valuable feedback. This research was partially supported by the National Social Science Foundation of China (17GBL035) and the China Scholarship Council (201806280325).


Shi, C., Hu, P., Fan, W. and Qiu, L. (2023), "Competitive peer influence on knowledge contribution behaviors in online Q&A communities: a social comparison perspective", Internet Research, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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