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The Wisdom of the Minority

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  • Steven Callander
  • Johannes Horner

Abstract

We consider a simple variant of the canonical model of social learning and show that in many situations it is optimal for an agent to abandon her own information and follow the minority rather than the majority. This possibility depends on two economically meaningful requirements: agents are differentially informed and observe only the number of agents having chosen each option, such as consumers observing only market shares. We show that minority wisdom arises when information is sufficiently heterogeneous and the well informed are not overly abundant, yet the conditions necessary are not overly restrictive. In fact, it is possible for the minority to be wise even when the minority consists of a lone dissenter and a majority of citizens are well informed.
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Suggested Citation

  • Steven Callander & Johannes Horner, 2005. "The Wisdom of the Minority," 2005 Meeting Papers 683, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed005:683
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    File URL: http://repec.org/sed2005/up.2337.1107191396.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Bikhchandani, Sushil & Hirshleifer, David & Welch, Ivo, 1992. "A Theory of Fads, Fashion, Custom, and Cultural Change in Informational Cascades," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(5), pages 992-1026, October.
    2. Lones Smith & Peter Sorensen, 2000. "Pathological Outcomes of Observational Learning," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(2), pages 371-398, March.
    3. Celen, Bogachan & Kariv, Shachar, 2004. "Observational learning under imperfect information," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 47(1), pages 72-86, April.
    4. Ramon Caminal & Xavier Vives, 1996. "Why Market Shares Matter: An Information-Based Theory," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 27(2), pages 221-239, Summer.
    5. Abhijit V. Banerjee, 1992. "A Simple Model of Herd Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(3), pages 797-817.
    6. Prendergast, Canice, 1993. "A Theory of "Yes Men."," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(4), pages 757-770, September.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Daron Acemoglu & Munther A. Dahleh & Ilan Lobel & Asuman Ozdaglar, 2011. "Bayesian Learning in Social Networks," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 78(4), pages 1201-1236.
    2. repec:oxf:wpaper:747 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Vincent Mak & Rami Zwick, 2014. "Experimenting and learning with localized direct communication," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 17(2), pages 262-284, June.
    4. Herrera, Helios & Hörner, Johannes, 2013. "Biased social learning," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 80(C), pages 131-146.
    5. Herresthal, C., 2017. "Performance-Based Rankings and School Quality," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 1754, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    6. Senthil K. Veeraraghavan & Laurens G. Debo, 2011. "Herding in Queues with Waiting Costs: Rationality and Regret," Manufacturing & Service Operations Management, INFORMS, vol. 13(3), pages 329-346, July.
    7. repec:aea:aejmic:v:9:y:2017:i:2:p:295-314 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Gill, David & Sgroi, Daniel, 2012. "The optimal choice of pre-launch reviewer," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 147(3), pages 1247-1260.
    9. Antonio Guarino & Antonella Ianni, 2010. "Bayesian Social Learning with Local Interactions," Games, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 1(4), pages 1-21, October.
    10. Alexei Parakhonyak & Nick Vikander, 2016. "Inducing Herding with Capacity Constraints," Economics Series Working Papers 808, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    11. Larson, Nathan, 2015. "Inertia in social learning from a summary statistic," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 159(PA), pages 596-626.
    12. Callander, Steven, 2008. "Majority rule when voters like to win," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 393-420, November.
    13. Monzón, Ignacio & Rapp, Michael, 2014. "Observational learning with position uncertainty," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 154(C), pages 375-402.
    14. Cingiz, Kutay & Flesch, Janos & Herings, P. Jean-Jacques & Predtetchinski, Arkadi, 2016. "Perfect Information Games where Each Player Acts Only Once," Research Memorandum 036, Maastricht University, Graduate School of Business and Economics (GSBE).
    15. Song, Yangbo, 2016. "Social learning with endogenous observation," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 166(C), pages 324-333.
    16. James C. D. Fisher & John Wooders, 2017. "Interacting information cascades: on the movement of conventions between groups," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 63(1), pages 211-231, January.
    17. Christoph Brunner & Jacob K. Goeree, 2009. "Wise crowds or wise minorities?," IEW - Working Papers 439, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior

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