Working paper

The impact of incorrect social information on collective wisdom in human groups

Bertrand Jayles, Ramon Escobedo, Stéphane Cezera, Adrien Blanchet, Tatsuya Kameda, Clément Sire, and Guy Théraulaz


A major problem that resulted from the massive use of social media networks is the diffusion of incorrect information. However, very few studies have investigated the impact of incorrect information on individual and collective decisions. We performed experiments in which participants had to estimate a series of quantities before and after receiving social information. Unbeknownst to them, we controlled the degree of inaccuracy of the social information through "virtual influencers", who provided some incorrect information. We find that a large proportion of individuals only partially follow the social information, thus resisting incorrect information. Moreover, we find that incorrect social information can help a group perform better when it overestimates the true value, by partly compensating a human underestimation bias. Overall, our results suggest that incorrect information does not necessarily impair the collective wisdom of groups, and can even be used to dampen the negative effects of known cognitive biases.

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Published in

IAST working paper, n. 20-106, May 2020