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Social Networks Science

Social Influence and the Wisdom of Crowd Effect 143

Posted by Soulskill
from the none-of-us-are-as-dumb-as-all-of-us dept.
formfeed writes "A lot has been written lately on the crowd effect and the wisdom of crowds. But for those of us who are doubtful, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science has published a study showing how masses can become dumber: social influence. While previous studies show how groups of people can come up with remarkably accurate results, it seems 'even mild social influence can undermine the wisdom of crowd effect in simple estimation tasks.' Social influence 'diminishes the diversity of the crowd without improvements of its collective error.' In short, crowd intelligence only works in cases where the opinion of others is hidden."
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Social Influence and the Wisdom of Crowd Effect

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  • Mob/herd mentality (Score:4, Informative)

    by HalAtWork (926717) on Wednesday May 18, 2011 @03:45PM (#36169998)
    It's quite a familiar concept, has it just been re-labeled [wikipedia.org]?

    Herd mentality implies a fear-based reaction to peer pressure which makes individuals act in order to avoid feeling "left behind" from the group.

    Qualified as "fear-based" and a "reaction to peer pressure" already implies a negative force. It's always nice to have studies to back it up though.

  • by blair1q (305137) on Wednesday May 18, 2011 @04:01PM (#36170172) Journal

    There's no money in opinion. There's plenty in spin.

  • by crunchygranola (1954152) on Wednesday May 18, 2011 @04:34PM (#36170568)

    In short, crowd intelligence only works in cases where the opinion of others is hidden.

    Nonsense. Opinions do *not* need to be hidden, opinions are one source of information. What needs to be suppressed are cliques, groupthink, etc. In short, crowd intelligence only works in cases where the opinion of others is considered but not blindly followed, where individuals think for themselves.

    In other words it almost always only works when the opinions of others are hidden. Those cases of groups of tough-minded independent thinkers being vanishingly rare.

    Even among seasoned experts overcoming the effects of groupthink requires special measures. Consider the "Delphi Technique" developed at RAND - where the experts pool their knowledge in multiple rounds anonymously.

    Declaring that people can avoid this by "just thinking for themselves" is akin to decreeing quality control by asserting "just don't make mistakes". It ignores the manifest reality of human existence in favor of idealized pip-dreams.

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