Two heads not better than one, research suggests
A study by scientists found that individuals could be better at problem solving on their own, as long as they were confident in their own answers.
When they attempted to answer in groups, those who offered the right answer tended to be drowned out by more confident members who confused them or led them astray, the research found.
The findings suggest the old adage “too many cooks spoil the broth” could indeed be more accurate than “two heads are better than one”, as people are better off thinking for themselves.
Pairs arrived at more wrong answers
The study, led by Professor Asher Koriat of Haifa University, Israel, asked participants a series of questions to determine how often an individual answered correctly compared with pairs or groups.
It found group decision-making was only better when the correct answer was the most logical, allowing them to reason out the most likely outcome together.
But when given trick questions, such as which object was bigger in a drawing designed to mislead them, they tended to get the answer wrong.
Those participants working in pairs actually arrived at more wrong answers than those working alone.
The pattern was repeated when asked relatively difficult but simple questions which many people fail on, such as ‘what is the capital of Australia?’
Confidence is key
Professor Koriat said the results suggested people who were most confident with their own answers tended to be right when working alone.
If people were always honest about how confident they were, he said, the results should be repeated within pairs and group.
Instead, he said: “In such cases it is the low confidence individuals who are more likely to be correct, and reliance on the more confident members should lead the group astray.”
He added previous studies which found “two heads were better than one” were not incorrect, but only if the answer was the most popular, logical or obvious one.
The study, which tested 38 people individually and in pairs, has now been published in the journal Science.
Via the Telegraph