The paper is persuasive because it contains both theoretical arguments “and empirical evidence that it works well,” Baillon said.
Crowd wisdom such as what might arise from online voting is popularly assumed to provide better answers than any one person by aggregating multiple perspectives. Democratic methods, however, tend to favor the most popular information, not necessarily the most correct. The ignorance of the masses can cancel out a knowledgeable minority with specialized information of a topic, resulting in the wrong answer becoming the most accepted.
To give more weight to correct information that may not be widely known, researchers from Princeton University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed what they call the “surprisingly popular” algorithm. Reported in the journal Nature Jan. 25, the technique hinges on asking people two things about a given question: What do they think the right answer is, and how popular do they think each answer will be?
The correct answer is that which is more popular than people predict, the researchers report. The technique could refine wisdom-of-crowds surveys, which are used in political and economic forecasting, as well as many other collective activities, from pricing artwork to grading scientific research proposals.
The researchers tested their algorithm through multiple surveys conducted on various populations. In one test, they asked people a yes-or-no question, Is Philadelphia the capital of Pennsylvania? Respondents also were asked to predict the prevalence of “yes” votes. Because Philadelphia is a “large, historically significant city,” most people in the group thought that, yes, it is the capital of Pennsylvania — Harrisburg is in fact the state’s capital. In addition, the people who mistakenly thought Philadelphia is the state capital also predicted that a very high percentage of people would answer “yes.”
Meanwhile, a certain number of respondents knew that the correct answer is “no.” But these people also anticipated that many other people would incorrectly think the capital is Philadelphia, so they also expected a very high percentage of “yes” answers. Thus, almost everyone expected other people to answer “yes,” but the actual percentage of people who did was significantly lower. “No” was the surprisingly popular answer because it exceeded expectations of what the answer would be.
Sebastian Seung, Princeton’s Evnin Professor in Neuroscience and professor of computer science and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute, said that the surprisingly popular, or SP, method is still democratic because there is no expectation of who would have specialized information, only that the information exists. Seung added that the researchers’ work was published 110 years after Nature published the seminal paper in crowd wisdom, Sir Francis Galton’s 1907 study “The Wisdom of Crowds.”
“The SP method is elitist in the sense that it tries to identify those who have expert knowledge,” Seung said. “However, it is democratic in the sense that potentially anyone could be identified as an expert. The method does not look at anyone’s resume or academic degrees.”
The researchers developed their method mathematically then applied it through surveys on multiple groups of people, including U.S. state capitals, general knowledge, medical diagnoses and art auction estimates.
Across all topics, the researchers found that the “surprisingly popular” algorithm reduced errors by 21.3 percent compared to simple majority votes, and by 24.2 percent compared to basic confidence-weighted votes (where people express how confident they are in their answers). It also reduced errors by 22.2 percent compared to answers with the highest average confidence levels. On the 50 test questions related to state capitals — such as the Harrisburg-Philadelphia question — the SP method reduced incorrect decisions by 48 percent compared to the majority vote.
“The argument in this paper, in a very rough sense, is that people who expect to be in the minority deserve some extra attention,” said co-author Drazen Prelec, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management as well as of economics and brain and cognitive sciences. “In situations where there is enough information in the crowd to determine the correct answer to a question, that answer will be the one [that] most outperforms expectations.”
Aurelien Baillon, a professor of economics at Erasmus University in Rotterdam who is familiar with the new paper but had no role in it, said that the researchers’ work “opens up completely new ways to think about an old problem.” The paper is persuasive because it contains both theoretical arguments “and empirical evidence that it works well,” Baillon said.
Receive an email update when we add a new CROWD WISDOM article.
The Latest on: Crowd wisdom
via Google News
The Latest on: Crowd wisdom
- Pence pressed on wisdom of holding campaign events amid resurgent pandemicon June 26, 2020 at 1:03 pm
Vice President Mike Pence was twice pressed on the wisdom of holding campaign rallies ... said Americans have the right to choose to attend campaign rallies, with large crowds and little ability to ...
- 8 Tips for Navigating Difficult Times That I've Learned from Living With a Chronic Illnesson June 26, 2020 at 12:05 pm
If you’ve ever spent time with folks living with chronic illness, you may have noticed that we have certain superpowers — like navigating the unpredictability of life with a sense of humor, processing ...
- Elvis Presley, Philosopher Kingon June 26, 2020 at 9:03 am
Elvis takes his stand and the crowd takes theirs with him ... and carried the traditions and shared values that dramatized a sense of place. Music gave pleasure, wisdom, and shelter. By the late ’40s ...
- OS mayor defends July 4 block party as coronavirus rages, says hospitals can handle iton June 26, 2020 at 2:45 am
A local attorney sent Shea Dobson and the Ocean Springs aldermen an email when he saw the city was hosting a block party: ”I know most of you and respect the work you do, but what the heck are you ...
- Washington county sheriff says Americans have right to dissent in face of government orders: 'Don't be a sheep'on June 25, 2020 at 4:30 pm
A Washington county sheriff was seen on video Wednesday telling a crowd of people, “Don’t be a sheep,” in the face of Gov. Jay Inslee’s orders.
- 'Don’t be a sheep.' A southwest Washington sheriff’s response to governor’s mask orderon June 25, 2020 at 12:45 pm
Hours after Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee announced a statewide mandate for people to wear masks in public, a Republican sheriff in southwest Washington appeared to urge open defiance of the order.
- Receive an inheritance: Don’t listen to the crowdon June 25, 2020 at 11:25 am
What does the wisdom of the crowd mean? According to Investopedia, “Wisdom of crowds is the idea that large groups of people are collectively smarter than individual experts when it comes to ...
- Lewis County sheriff on video telling crowd, “don’t be a sheep” about wearing face maskson June 24, 2020 at 5:10 pm
The video, shot by the Daily Chronicle newspaper is short. In it, Sheriff Robert Snaza addresses a small crowd through a bullhorn. “In case you guys didn’t hear, Governor Jay Inslee, in his infinite ...
- Fox & Friends Host Questions Wisdom of Trump Rally: ‘I Don’t Know Who Thought It Was a Good Idea’on June 22, 2020 at 5:19 am
Fox & Friends acknowledged that it might not have been smart for President Donald Trump to hold an indoor campaign rally in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
via Bing News