Wisdom of crowds

[PEREZGONZALEZ Jose D (2011). Wisdom of crowds. Journal of Knowledge Advancement & Integration (ISSN 1177-4576), 2011, pages 46-47.] [Printer friendly]

The wisdom of crowds

The Wisdom of Crowds is both the title of a book and a concept introduced by Surowiecki1 with that book in 2004 . The concept refers to how groups (of people) can outperform even the brightest individuals most of the time (or, as the subtitles goes, how the many are smarter than the few).

This concept actually reflects known statistical principles, such as unbiased sampling, aggregation, and central tendency. Therefore, the wisdom of crowds is not so much a new concept as a 'translation' of those statistical principles into folk psychology. Thus, we could expect the wisdom of crowds working better with larger groups, or working well with smaller groups if those 'statistical' properties have been controlled.

Four pillars

The concept of The wisdom of crowds rests on four principles or conditions (Surowiecki, 2004, p.101):

  • Diversity of opinion: each person have some private information, even if it's just an eccentric interpretation of the known facts
  • Independence: people's opinions are not determined by the opinions of those around them
  • Decentralization: people are able to specialize and draw on local knowledge
  • Aggregation: some mechanism exists for turning private judgments into a collective decision

Furthermore, Surowiecki's book deals with three kind of problems: cognition problems (which have definite solutions either in the form of a single correct answer to each of them or a best answer among competing ones), coordination problems (which require members of a group to coordinate their behavior knowing that each member is trying to do the same), and cooperation problems (which require people to contribute to a group knowing that others may be trying not to do so).


Jose D PEREZGONZALEZ (2011). Massey University, Turitea Campus, Private Bag 11-222, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand. (JDPerezgonzalezJDPerezgonzalez).

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