Surprisingly popular

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The surprisingly popular answer is a wisdom of the crowd technique that taps into the expert minority opinion within a crowd.[1] For a given question, a group is asked both "What do you think the right answer is?" and "What do you think the popular answer will be?" The answer that maximizes the average difference between the "right" answer and the "popular" answer is the "surprisingly popular" answer.[2]


Question to be determined:
Is Philadelphia the capital of Pennsylvania?

Questions asked to the group and the response rates:
Is Philadelphia the capital of Pennsylvania?

  • Yes: 65%
  • No: 35%

What do you think most people will respond to that question?

  • Yes: 75%
  • No: 25%

The difference between the answers to the right question and the popular question:

  • Yes: 65% - 75% = -10%
  • No: 35% - 25% = 10%

Thus, the No answer is surprisingly popular (10% > -10%). Because of the relatively high margin of 10%, there can be high confidence that the correct answer is No.


  1. ^ Akst, Daniel (February 16, 2017). "The Wisdom of Even Wiser Crowds". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 16 May 2018.
  2. ^ Dizikes, Peter (January 25, 2017). "Better wisdom from crowds". MIT News. Retrieved 16 May 2018.

Further reading[edit]

Prelec, Dražen; Seung, H. Sebastian; McCoy, John (25 January 2017). "A solution to the single-question crowd wisdom problem". Nature. 541: 532–535. doi:10.1038/nature21054.