How to tap the wisdom of the crowd in your head

Researchers conducted a test to find out if individuals can make better estimates of historical dates if they make two guesses and average them. It turns out they can!
Herzog and Hertwig used the insights of the “wisdom of crowd” perspective to make one head nearly as good as two. After participants made their first guesses at the dates of historical events, they then made a second estimate using one of two methods. In one condition, participants simply gave a second estimate. This condition did little to increase either knowledge or diversity.

In the second condition, participants were given detailed directions for making their follow-up guess: “First, assume that your first estimate is off the mark. Second, think about a few reasons why that could be. Which assumptions and considerations could have been wrong? Third, what do these new considerations imply?... Fourth, based on this new perspective, make a second, alternative estimate.” When the participants used the more involved method, the average was significantly more accurate than the first estimate. The “crowd within” achieved about half the accuracy gains that would have been achieved by averaging with a second person.

How to tap the wisdom of the crowd in your head


  1. hmmm…did they control for testing bias by giving the prompting language to another test group before they even gave a first guess? For example (“First, think about what the date might be and a few reasons why that could be true. Which assumptions and considerations could have been wrong? Second, what do these considerations imply?… Third, based on this perspective, make your final estimate.” Off to read the details…

  2. This isn’t wisdom of crowds. This is not being stupid and actually thinking before you speak. Perhaps in that sense it does capture some wisdom, but this is not a revolutionary find. It’s the difference between a guess and an estimate.

  3. #4:
    Bingo. These people could easily forgo the first step of making a halfassed guess and jump straight to the, “Let me think about this first” portion of the test.

  4. I guess you guys missed the point here: Diversity – Diversity cancels out errors of judgement – Diversity of perspective allows one person to think with many minds because the thinking lots of different things – whatever that might be – the varied or diverse the better – allows an average of the two guesses to be more accurate than either one of the two guesses –

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