Application Exercise 5d: National Geographic Brain Games
- The experiment requires participants to determine which line A, B or C is the same length as the line on the first card. The first nine participants were ‘in on the experiment’ and all indicated that the answer was line A, which is incorrect. This influenced the choices of some of the other participants who were ‘not in on the experiment’, which led them to erroneously pick line A too. However, some of the participants towards the back of the queue did not follow the crowd and picked the correct answer, which is line C.
- The experiment is designed to show how the ‘crowd’ or the ‘herd’ can influence people’s decision-making processes, and ultimately result in people making sub-optimal decisions.
- People can tend to follow the crowd because they place their faith in the ‘wisdom of the crowds’ or the masses i.e., the belief that the herd knows best and must be right. This might be because people lack the necessary information to make decisions. Alternatively, it can be expedient to follow the herd i.e., following the herd can be a time-saving technique or ‘mental short cut’ that people rely on to speed up the decision-making process. However, this does not mean that people will necessarily make optimal or utility maximising decisions.