Spring 2020 webinar: Emerging research on Collective Intelligence

The illusion of consensus: How adults and children evaluate a 'true' and 'false' consensus

Practical information
06 May 2020

Online webinar


The spring 2020 collective intelligence webinar series is jointly hosted by Brent Strickland (DEC/ENS-PSL; Institut Jean Nicod) and Cathal O'Madagain(UM6P School of Collective Intelligence). The series will contain a number of on-line talks meant to display emerging research in this field as well as instigate collaborations between young scholars at the ENS-Ulm and the UM6P School of Collective Intelligence. Talks will last roughly 45 minutes - 1 hour, followed by Q&A. The series organizers are also open to creating connections and small working groups outside of the webinar so that new ideas discussed here can be translated into concrete projects.


Registration Info & Requirements: brent.strickland@ens.fr

Abstract: When evaluating information, we cannot always rely on what has been presented as truth: Different sources might disagree with each other, and sometimes there may be no underlying truth. Accordingly, we must use other cues to evaluate information—perhaps the most salient of which is consensus. But what counts as consensus? Do we attend only to surface-level indications of consensus, or do we also probe deeper and consider why sources agree? I'll present four experiments that demonstrate how individuals evaluate consensus. Strikingly, people seem to evaluate consensus only superficially: Participants were equally confident in conclusions drawn from a true consensus (derived from independent primary sources) and a false consensus (derived from only one primary source) -- and this is true even immediately after participants explicitly stated that a true consensus was more believable than a false consensus. I'll also show some work with children tracking how they come to evaluate consensus over time. Finally, I'll discuss how this illusion of consensus acts as a powerful means by which misinformation may spread.