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Self-serving incentives impair collective decisions by increasing conformity

Bazazi, S; von Zimmermann, J; Bahrami, B; Richardson, D; (2019) Self-serving incentives impair collective decisions by increasing conformity. PLoS One , Article e0224725. 10.1371/journal.pone.0224725. Green open access

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Abstract

The average judgment of large numbers of people has been found to be consistently better than the best individual response. But what motivates individuals when they make collective decisions? While it is a popular belief that individual incentives promote out-of-the-box thinking and diverse solutions, the exact role of motivation and reward in collective intelligence remains unclear. Here we examined collective intelligence in an interactive group estimation task where participants were rewarded for their individual or group’s performance. In addition to examining individual versus collective incentive structures, we controlled whether participants could see social information about the others’ responses. We found that knowledge about others’ responses reduced the wisdom of the crowd and, crucially, this effect depended on how people were rewarded. When rewarded for the accuracy of their individual responses, participants converged to the group mean, increasing social conformity, reducing diversity and thereby diminishing their group wisdom. When rewarded for their collective performance, diversity of opinions and the group wisdom increased. We conclude that the intuitive association between individual incentives and individualist opinion needs revising.

Type: Article
Title: Self-serving incentives impair collective decisions by increasing conformity
Location: United States
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0224725
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0224725
Language: English
Additional information: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Experimental Psychology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10090521
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