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Document Type

Campus-Only Access for Five (5) Years

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Management

Year Degree Awarded

2016

Month Degree Awarded

September

First Advisor

Christopher P. Agoglia

Subject Categories

Accounting

Abstract

Recently enacted standards have formally allowed organizations to offer equity using the crowdfunding model. The crowdfunding model raises capital over the internet by soliciting relatively small contributions from a relatively large number of people who make up a “crowd” (Mollick 2013). Organizations using equity crowdfunding strive for the spread of viral social information to solicit investments (Belleflamme, Lambert, & Schwienbacher 2014). However, research has not yet explored how virality impacts investor decision making. In this study, I investigate whether viral social information can shift investors away from financial maximization goals, leading them to make suboptimal investing decisions. Social identity theory predicts that people can be provoked to act as representatives of their group rather than their individual selves (Tajfel 1981; Tajfel & Turner 1979). I predict and find that positive viral social information focused on an equity crowdfunding organization leads investors who strongly identify with that organization to invest in that organization, even when that organization is relatively suboptimal. In addition, I explore whether investors’ perceptions of negative viral social information are moderated by their social identity (Ellemers, Spears, & Doosje 1999; Nadler and Halibi 2006). I predict that investors who strongly identify with an organization experiencing negative viral social information will feel threatened and defensively invest in that organization. Although results are directionally consistent, I do not find support for my prediction. The findings of this study will be of interest to investors, regulators, and crowdfunding organizations.

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