Wisdom, and crowds
If you have a jar full of marbles, you have have a lot of marbles. Also, you have an interesting phenomenon; if you ask a group of people to guess the number in the jar, the average of all the guesses will be pretty much spot-on. The wisdom – it is said – of crowds.
But take the average of the guesses when everybody knows what the previous guess was and you
Do this, and between 50% to 80% of the unsuspecting – lone – candidates in each experiment will agree with the group even though they know it to be wrong. Even across variations of this execution in Asch’s study, the average ‘conformity’ was a third.
Either knowingly, or unknowingly, we bend our decision toward the crowd.
So this is how you skew a guesstimate then – pollute the guess with those of others?
Is this how you confound the wisdom of the crowd? By anchoring the guess – fair means or foul?
In Edge magazine (which is excellent btw – along with Farnam Street blog you will see your curiosity-thirst quenched many times over) Kahneman spoke of a line-length experiment. It is similar to the marbles-in-a-jar approach but can test two dimensions – one test is for
This is not presented so much as an anthropological or behavioural quirk relating to line length
” . . . there is a really important distinction between natural assessment and things that are not naturally assessed.”
The lesson? If something seems easy look for the corollary. Suck a thoughtful tooth for a moment. Re-jig a choice, or a guess, or an appreciation, and see if you’re making frictionless or frictionful choices. Assumptions will be surfaced, and hard-thinking will be recognised as the product of an anthropological inability, rather than your inadequacies.
Thank [your deity of choice] for that.