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When votes are shown before someone votes, there seems to be crowd mentality that results in the post with the most votes (usually the first answer) getting disproportionally more votes - even when there are (arguably) better posts that just happen to have been posted later.

Some applications only show customers the results after they have voted, which seems to lead to less biased results.

Should we show the current votes before or after voting?

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inspired by a discussion with @charles in the UX chat room –  JohnGB Dec 13 '12 at 6:18
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Is this question in relation to UX.SE voting specifically, or just voting in general. If it's for UX.SE then I can migrate it to the Meta site where it's probably a better fit, but if it's a general question then can it be focused more so to avoid any confusion? –  JonW Dec 14 '12 at 15:48
    
@JonW It's not about the way that SE does things, but voting in general. When it's better to show before and when it's not. –  JohnGB Dec 14 '12 at 15:54
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3 Answers 3

up vote 9 down vote accepted

A lot depends on the purpose of the voting, but the general rules that I would follow are:


Show the votes before voting:

  • the primary purpose of the voting is the sorting the posts / options
  • you are allowed to vote on more than one post / option
  • there are potentially many posts / options and you don’t need someone to have read them all before they vote

StackExchange is a good example of this, where the UX is more important than the level of crowd bias in the answer.


Show the votes only after voting:

  • it’s critical that the voting is unbiased
  • you typically only have one vote
  • there are few posts / options to choose between.

This is typically the case with surveys and elections. Apps like Polar also do this. enter image description here

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Show the result after the vote has been cast.

This has to do with conformity (as you briefly mention yourself). Experiments (see f.ex. Asch's experiment) has shown that people in general, are affected by what other people do and say in groups, even if they initially was thinking or knowing differently.

Therefor, showing a result before the vote is cast may affect and even change the voter's final vote.

See the following links:
http://www.simplypsychology.org/conformity.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conformity

Quote from the simplypsychology.org link (my emphasis):

Conformity is a type of social influence involving a change in belief or behavior in order to fit in with a group.

This change is in response to real (involving the physical presence of others) or imagined (involving the pressure of social norms / expectations) group pressure.

and

The term conformity is often used to indicate an agreement to the majority position [...]

Also see group/peer pressure:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peer_pressure

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+1 seeing the results would influence peoples vote. See also linkbandwagon or snowball effect –  obelia Dec 14 '12 at 16:02
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Go the middle way and give the users the freedom.

What you want to avoid is users being subconsciously influenced by the currently leadning answer(s). Consequently, hiding the intermediary results of the poll from the user seems to prevent that. However, you must not force users to vote to access the results, if they are only interested in the results, and not in voting.

Initially hide the results, but give an option to show results. Optionally, you can allow voting even after someone has viewed the results without voting. They might or might not be influenced by their investigation of the poll progress so far, but it certainly is less subconscious of an influence. In fact, users might even give their vote more thought after having deliberately choosen to view the poll progress, yet overall the polls outcome stays more neutral to poll progress.

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