Friday, May 18, 2012

Are two heads better than one?

Always taking the answer from the most confident partner in a pair led to superior performance for that series compared with always taking the answer from whichever individual had the most impressive overall performance. In other words, the more confident of two heads working together nearly always outperformed the most proficient individual working on their own. Taking the most confident answer from a virtual group of three led to even more impressive performance.

The strategy even worked for people working alone if they were given two chances, a week apart, to provide answers to a series of questions, as well as rating their confidence. Always taking the more confident of their answers led to superior performance overall and was more effective than simply averaging their two answers.

This strategy of taking the answer of the most confident partner only worked for questions for which most people, "the crowd", tend to get the answer right. When the questions were tricky and wrong-footed most people, then the rule was reversed. Take the example of "Which city has the larger population - Zurich or Bern?". Most people get this question wrong - they think it's Bern because that's the capital, but the correct answer is Zurich. For questions like this, the most effective strategy is actually to always take the answer of the dyad partner who is least confident.
You can boost your quiz performance by unleashing the crowd within, a new study shows.

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