Skepticism, Medicine and Science News

Wisdom of the Crowd

This is a bit of interesting news about the human brain. For some time now it has been recognized that if you ask a lot of people a question like “What percent of US truck drivers are independents“, the statistical average of those answers will generally be closer to the real answer than if you just asked one person. This phenomenon is known as the wisdom of the crowd. A recent study showed that this crowd wisdom also comes into play when the crowd consist of only one person. In the study they asked 428 participants some trivia questions, and then, without warning, later asked them to answer the questions again. The result showed that on average, the combined result of a persons answers were more accurate than their individual answers alone. The scientists say this support the theory that cognition can be viewed as a statistical interface. When people guess the answers to trivia questions they will generate a range of possible values based on their knowledge, and since each response will represent one sample from the entire set, the more answers you have, the more accurate will, probabilistically, the combined result be. The study can be found here, and a SciAm article about it here.


And btw, about 9% of US truck drivers are independent.


October 9, 2008 Posted by | Mind | , , , , , , | Leave a comment