Complex Systems

Prediction Diversity and Selective Attention in the
Wisdom of Crowds Download PDF

Davi A. Nobre
José F. Fontanari

Instituto de Física de São Carlos, Universidade de São Paulo
Caixa Postal 369
São Carlos, SP 13560-970, Brazil


The wisdom of crowds is the idea that the combination of independent estimates of the magnitude of some quantity yields a remarkably accurate prediction, which is always more accurate than the average individual estimate. In addition, it is largely believed that the accuracy of the crowd can be improved by increasing the diversity of the estimates. Here we report the results of three experiments to probe the current understanding of the wisdom of crowds, namely, the estimates of the number of candies in a jar, the length of a paper strip and the number of pages of a book. We find that the collective estimate is better than the majority of the individual estimates in all three experiments. In disagreement with the prediction diversity theorem, we find no significant correlation between the prediction diversity and the collective error. The poor accuracy of the crowd on some experiments leads us to conjecture that its alleged accuracy is most likely an artifact of selective attention.

Keywords: wisdom of crowds; forecast combinations; diversity prediction theorem; judgment distributions

Cite this publication as:
D. A. Nobre and J. F. Fontanari, “Prediction Diversity and Selective Attention in the Wisdom of Crowds,” Complex Systems, 29(4), 2020 pp. 861–875.