Send to

Choose Destination
J R Soc Interface. 2018 May;15(142). pii: 20180155. doi: 10.1098/rsif.2018.0155.

Individuals fail to reap the collective benefits of diversity because of over-reliance on personal information.

Author information

Center for Adaptive Rationality, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Lentzeallee 94, 14195 Berlin, Germany
Biology and Ecology of Fishes, Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, Müggelseedamm 310, 12587 Berlin, Germany.
Faculty of Life Science, Albrecht Daniel Thaer-Institut, Humboldt University, Invalidenstraße 42, 10115 Berlin, Germany.
Center for Adaptive Rationality, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Lentzeallee 94, 14195 Berlin, Germany.


Collective intelligence refers to the ability of groups to outperform individuals in solving cognitive tasks. Although numerous studies have demonstrated this effect, the mechanisms underlying collective intelligence remain poorly understood. Here, we investigate diversity in cue beliefs as a mechanism potentially promoting collective intelligence. In our experimental study, human groups observed a sequence of cartoon characters, and classified each character as a cooperator or defector based on informative and uninformative cues. Participants first made an individual decision. They then received social information consisting of their group members' decisions before making a second decision. Additionally, individuals reported their beliefs about the cues. Our results showed that individuals made better decisions after observing the decisions of others. Interestingly, individuals developed different cue beliefs, including many wrong ones, despite receiving identical information. Diversity in cue beliefs, however, did not predict collective improvement. Using simulations, we found that diverse collectives did provide better social information, but that individuals failed to reap those benefits because they relied too much on personal information. Our results highlight the potential of belief diversity for promoting collective intelligence, but suggest that this potential often remains unexploited because of over-reliance on personal information.


Condorcet; collective intelligence; correlated votes; majority rule; social information; wisdom of the crowd

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Atypon Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center