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When it comes to making decisions, most of us are influenced to some degree by other people, whether that's choosing a restaurant or a political candidate. We want to know what others think before we make that choice.
Humans are social animals. So social that we can rarely be independent of others because of our propensity for copying behaviour and communication – also known as social learning.
Humans - Day - Trainers - Idea - Quality
Humans copy each other every day. You might buy the latest trainers because they're really popular, even though you have no idea how good quality they are. And then you might share that information, perhaps posting a review on social media. This can induce "smarter" purchasing decisions because usually, if a product is popular, it seems less likely it would be of be poor quality. So sometimes social learning can improve our decision making.
Our social learning ability has led to extraordinary technological success. Advances in modern science and technology, from the smart phone to the Higgs Boson particle, have been made possible not only by genius innovation, but by humans' ability to learn from others. So social learning is seen as a source of collective intelligence – smart decision making among groups of individuals that improves on the ability of one single person. This can be useful in areas such as management, product development and predicting elections.
Opposite - Crowds - Madness - Ineffective - Knowledge
However, the opposite can also be true. Crowds can also suffer from collective "madness", when ineffective or harmful knowledge goes viral due to copying – a phenomenon called maladaptive herding – which can trigger things like instability in stock markets.
Why do groups of humans sometimes exhibit collective wisdom and at other times madness? Can we reduce the risk of maladaptive herding and at the same time increase the possibility of collective wisdom?
Conflict - Longstanding
Understanding this apparent conflict has been a longstanding...
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