Crowd Wisdom -- Revisited | Public Relations & Social Marketing Insight |

Since James Surowiecki published his book “The Wisdom of Crowds,” the common wisdom is that we are commonly wise. In other words, if we average the knowledge of many people, we’ll be smarter than any of us would be individually. And that is true -- to an extent. But new research suggests that there are group decision dynamics at play where bigger (crowds) may not always be better.

A study by Iain Couzin and Albert Kao at Princeton suggests that in real-world situations, where information is more complex and spotty, the benefits of crowd wisdom peak in groups of 5 to 20 participants, and then decrease after that. The difference comes in how the group processes the information available to them.

In Surowiecki’s book, he uses the famous example of Sir Francis Galton’s 1907 observation of a contest where villagers were asked to guess the weight of an ox. While no individual correctly guessed the weight, the average of all the guesses came in just one pound short of the correct number....