The Wisdom of Crowds in the Recollection of Order Information

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 22 (NIPS 2009)

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Mark Steyvers, Brent Miller, Pernille Hemmer, Michael Lee


When individuals independently recollect events or retrieve facts from memory, how can we aggregate these retrieved memories to reconstruct the actual set of events or facts? In this research, we report the performance of individuals in a series of general knowledge tasks, where the goal is to reconstruct from memory the order of historic events, or the order of items along some physical dimension. We introduce two Bayesian models for aggregating order information based on a Thurstonian approach and Mallows model. Both models assume that each individuals reconstruction is based on either a random permutation of the unobserved ground truth, or by a pure guessing strategy. We apply MCMC to make inferences about the underlying truth and the strategies employed by individuals. The models demonstrate a wisdom of crowds" effect, where the aggregated orderings are closer to the true ordering than the orderings of the best individual."