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Social Networks Science

Social Influence and the Wisdom of Crowd Effect 143

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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  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2011 @03:37PM (#36169894)

    While most problems today are complex. We still try to cling to the groups ideology to try to solve the problem vs. realizing the ideology isn't the solution just a start of an approach which needs modifications. However political parties leader will not waver too far off their ideology core as the group in the hole still follows that ideology.

  • by traindirector ( 1001483 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2011 @03:40PM (#36169922)

    Interesting. Maybe democracy would work better if we didn't know the opinions of others, have poll data, or hear media commentary other than candidates speaking and their records...

  • by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Wednesday May 18, 2011 @03:44PM (#36169982) Homepage Journal

    The brain isn't designed to think independent of context. It's built to be part of a social system. Yes, people need to think for themselves, but to mandate that requires us to break the architecture of our minds. It can't work as the primary solution. Indeed, this current study only shows that what used to be two points ("mob thinking" and "collective intelligence") are just two points on an entire continuum. The problem is that humanity prefers to slide to the lower end of the spectrum rather than rise to its potential. THAT is what you need to solve. The details of who thinks and how then become incidental. Mere implementation details.

  • by MickyTheIdiot ( 1032226 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2011 @03:46PM (#36170002) Homepage Journal

    One election cycle I was only watching C-SPAN for coverage. It was amazing how differently I was thinking from everyone else. When I would change to CNN to a quick look the would be talking "strategy" or have "experts" talking out of the butt as usual and it was TOTALLY different from what I was thinking and the questions that came up in my mind. The media and these "experts" aren't called "opinion leaders" for nothing.

  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2011 @03:58PM (#36170134) Homepage

    The brain isn't designed to think independent of context. It's built to be part of a social system.

    Please, stop using words like "designed" and "built" in reference to the human brain.

    It evolved, it exists ... it's not something which was created by a specific actor according to a spec.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 18, 2011 @04:07PM (#36170216)

    somehow a debate came up about whether cats eyes glow in the dark or are highly reflective, making them appear to glow in the dark in low light situations. The teacher honestly did not know the answer (facepalm) and asked the class to vote on it. It was almost unanimous that they did in fact glow in the dark, aside from me and one other poor soul. I remember that day very vividly. It was the day I realized people are dumb and a general consensus means NOTHING in terms of accuracy.

  • by Verteiron ( 224042 ) on Wednesday May 18, 2011 @07:02PM (#36172506) Homepage

    Going against the consensus is hard, even if you have been trained or trained yourself to do so.

    I was watching TV with my wife's family a few years ago and "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" was on. It's not a show I routinely watch but we all had fun shouting answers at the screen. Nice social behavior.

    The tricky bit came when a question that fell squarely into one of my big interests came along: "What planet does the moon Titan orbit?"

    The answers included Jupiter, Saturn, and a couple of obvious wrong ones. I immediately yelled "Saturn!" while nearly everyone else in the group said "Jupiter!".

    Now I KNEW that my answer was right. And some of people with me who said "Jupiter" started to reconsider, because it's common knowledge that I'm a space geek. The lady on the screen hemmed and hawed and finally chose to use one of her "lifelines" to poll the audience for the answer. Something like 80% of the audience said "Jupiter" and all support for my answer among my group fell away.

    It was the strangest feeling. I mean, I got up at 2 AM to see the Huygens photographs online. I used to draw pictures of Saturn rising over Titan when I was a kid. I KNEW the answer, and yet with the entire audience and half a family against me I suddenly began to doubt myself. Had I been wrong all these years, suffered some kind of strange delusion? Was Titan a Jovian moon? How could that many people all be wrong?

    Of course, a few seconds later the lady correctly answered "Saturn", throwing off the audience opinion and vindicating my chosen response, but it was a very odd sensation for that minute or so before the TV proved me right...

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!