The Key To Groupthink

Andrew Sullivan —  Sep 17 2011 @ 12:52pm

The wisdom of crowds works best anonymously:

Andrew King asked 82 people to guess the number of sweets in a jar. If they made their guesses without any extra information, the wisdom of the crowd prevailed. The crowd’s median guess was 751.* The actual number of sweets was… 752. This collective accuracy collapsed if King told different groups of volunteers about what their peers had guessed.

But when the researcher told volunteers the best guess of their peers, they again guessed well. Ed Jong concludes:

If anything, this result simply reiterates how important it is to choose who we emulate. If we pick poorly (like the crowds who learned about a random earlier guess), our decisions are worse. If we pick well (like the ones who learned about the best previous guess), we fare better. … Maybe the real trick to exploiting the wisdom of the crowd is to recognise the most knowledgeable individuals within it.