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The wisdom of partisan crowds

Becker, J; Porter, E; Centola, D; (2019) The wisdom of partisan crowds. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America , 116 (22) pp. 10717-10722. 10.1073/pnas.1817195116. Green open access

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Theories in favor of deliberative democracy are based on the premise that social information processing can improve group beliefs. While research on the “wisdom of crowds” has found that information exchange can increase belief accuracy on noncontroversial factual matters, theories of political polarization imply that groups will become more extreme—and less accurate—when beliefs are motivated by partisan political bias. A primary concern is that partisan biases are associated not only with more extreme beliefs, but also with a diminished response to social information. While bipartisan networks containing both Democrats and Republicans are expected to promote accurate belief formation, politically homogeneous networks are expected to amplify partisan bias and reduce belief accuracy. To test whether the wisdom of crowds is robust to partisan bias, we conducted two web-based experiments in which individuals answered factual questions known to elicit partisan bias before and after observing the estimates of peers in a politically homogeneous social network. In contrast to polarization theories, we found that social information exchange in homogeneous networks not only increased accuracy but also reduced polarization. Our results help generalize collective intelligence research to political domains.

Type: Article
Title: The wisdom of partisan crowds
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1817195116
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1817195116
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: collective intelligence, polarization, networks, the wisdom of crowds, deliberative democracy
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > UCL School of Management
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10108015
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