Wisdom of Crowds: The Minority Rules

The Wall Street Journal: “Researchers at MIT and Princeton have found a way to tap into the insight of the expert minority within a crowd—a minority whose views would otherwise be swamped in a simple majority vote or poll. The researchers’ simple new technique leverages the ignorance of crowds as well as their wisdom.”

“Their approach works by asking the question to which you need an answer, then adding a second question that is some version of: In percentages, how do you think most people will answer? If the actual minority percentage exceeds the predicted minority percentage, the minority answer is probably the correct one. And the larger the gap between prediction and reality, the more confidence we can have in that minority response.”

“The technique works, says Drazen Prelec, one of the MIT scientists, because people with more knowledge than most recognize the likely position of the majority, and both groups join in predicting a low vote in favor of the minority answer. When the minority vote for the right answer exceeds that prediction, it gives us what the researchers call the ‘surprisingly popular’ answer, which is more likely to be correct.”

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