Collective intelligence: aggregation of information from neighbors in a guessing game

Perez, Toni; Zamora, Jordi; Eguiluz, Victor M.
PLoS ONE 11(4), e0153586 (2016)

Complex systems show the capacity to aggregate information and to display coordinated activity. In the case of social systems the interaction of different individuals leads to the emergence of norms, trends in political positions, opinions, cultural traits, and even scientific progress. Examples of collective behavior can be observed in activities like the Wikipedia and Linux, where individuals aggregate their knowledge for the benefit of the community, and citizen science, where the potential of collectives to solve complex problems is exploited. Here, we conducted an online experiment to investigate the performance of a collective when solving a guessing problem in which each actor is endowed with partial information and placed as the nodes of an interaction network. We measure the performance of the collective in terms of the temporal evolution of the accuracy, finding no statistical difference in the performance for two classes of networks, regular lattices and random networks. We also determine that a Bayesian description captures the behavior pattern the individuals follow in aggregating information from neighbors to make decisions. In comparison with other simple decision models, the strategy followed by the players reveals a suboptimal performance of the collective. Our contribution provides the basis for the micro-macro connection between individual based descriptions and collective phenomena.

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