Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Uncanny Precision of the Collective Uninformed

You've probably heard the phrase "never underestimate stupid people in large groups." This is actually proven to be true. You can try this experiment yourself. This is what you do:
  1. Get a jar of jelly beans or else something small in a large bowl or bottle
  2. Gather a large group of different kinds of people at varying degrees of math skills
  3. Have everyone guess how many jelly beans are in the jar
  4. Take the average of all the guesses, and, invariably, the average is closer to the correct amount than any one person
Pretty amazing, isn't it? The group as a whole is more accurate than any individual person. I heard of an experiment at a county fair where the group had to guess the weight on an ox. A scientist took the average of the people's guesses and found that they were only 1 pound off. How amazing is that!?

Try it out yourself and you will see that this is true. I guess it just proves my slogan for my college experience: cooperate and graduate.


Patricia said...

Sounds cool! I've never heard of this or tried it. I'm thinking of when and with whom I could do it. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Kathy Haynie said...

The head secretary at our school is a champion jelly-bean-jar guesser. She wins every time the library has one of those contests (they try to get more kids to come in the library).

She might throw off the stats...

But I'll ask the librarians about this!