The epidemics of donations: Logistic growth and power-laws.

Frank Schweitzer and Robert Mach

PLOS ONE (2008)


This paper demonstrates that collective social dynamics resulting from individual donations can be well described by an epidemic model. It captures the herding behavior in donations as a non-local interaction between individual via a time-dependent mean field representing the mass media. Our study is based on the statistical analysis of a unique dataset obtained before and after the tsunami disaster of 2004. We find a power-law behavior for the distributions of donations with similar exponents for different countries. Even more remarkably, we show that these exponents are the same before and after the tsunami, which accounts for some kind of universal behavior in donations independent of the actual event. We further show that the time-dependent change of both the number and the total amount of donations after the tsunami follows a logistic growth equation. As a new element, a time-dependent scaling factor appears in this equation which accounts for the growing lack of public interest after the disaster. The results of the model are underpinned by the data analysis and thus also allow for a quantification of the media influence.