The Wisdom of the Crowd in Combinatorial Problems
Article first published online: 23 JAN 2012
Copyright © 2012 Cognitive Science Society, Inc.
Volume 36, Issue 3, pages 452–470, April 2012
How to Cite
Yi, S. K. M., Steyvers, M., Lee, M. D. and Dry, M. J. (2012), The Wisdom of the Crowd in Combinatorial Problems. Cognitive Science, 36: 452–470. doi: 10.1111/j.1551-6709.2011.01223.x
- Issue published online: 4 APR 2012
- Article first published online: 23 JAN 2012
- Received 1 January 2010; received in revised form 13 June 2011; accepted 21 June 2011
- Wisdom of the crowd;
- Problem solving;
- Traveling salesman problem;
- Minimum spanning tree problem
The “wisdom of the crowd” phenomenon refers to the finding that the aggregate of a set of proposed solutions from a group of individuals performs better than the majority of individual solutions. Most often, wisdom of the crowd effects have been investigated for problems that require single numerical estimates. We investigate whether the effect can also be observed for problems where the answer requires the coordination of multiple pieces of information. We focus on combinatorial problems such as the planar Euclidean traveling salesperson problem, minimum spanning tree problem, and a spanning tree memory task. We develop aggregation methods that combine common solution fragments into a global solution and demonstrate that these aggregate solutions outperform the majority of individual solutions. These case studies suggest that the wisdom of the crowd phenomenon might be broadly applicable to problem-solving and decision-making situations that go beyond the estimation of single numbers.