Consumption and performance: Understanding longitudinal dynamics of recommender systems via an agent-based simulation framework

Jingjing Zhang, Gediminas Adomavicius, Alok Gupta, Wolfgang Ketter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


We develop a general agent-based modeling and computational simulation approach to study the impact of various factors on the temporal dynamics of recommender systems' performance. The proposed agent-based simulation approach allows for comprehensive analysis of longitudinal recommender systems performance under a variety of diverse conditions, which typically is not feasible with live real-world systems. We specifically focus on exploring the product consumption strategies and show that, over time, user-recommender interactions consistently lead to the longitudinal performance paradox of recommender systems. In particular, users' reliance on the system's recommendations to make item choices generally tends to make the recommender system less useful in the long run or, more specifically, negatively impacts the longitudinal dynamics of several important dimensions of recommendation performance. Furthermore, we explore the nuances of the performance paradox via additional explorations of longitudinal dynamics of recommender systems for a variety of user populations and consumption strategies, as well as personalized and nonpersonalized recommendation approaches. One interesting discovery from our exploration is that a certain hybrid consumption strategy'that is, where users rely on a combination of both personalized- and popularity-based recommendations, offers a unique ability to substantially improve consumption relevance over time. In other words, for such hybrid consumption settings, recommendation algorithms facilitate the general “quality-rises-to-the-top” phenomenon, which is not present in the pure popularity-based consumption. In addition to discussing a number of interesting performance patterns, the paper also analyzes and provides insights into the underlying factors that drive such patterns. Our findings have significant implications for the design and implementation of recommender systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)76-101
Number of pages26
JournalInformation Systems Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright: © 2020 INFORMS


  • Agent-based modeling
  • Consumption diversity
  • Consumption relevance
  • Consumption strategies
  • Dynamics of recommender systems
  • Prediction accuracy
  • Simulation


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