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When it comes to the “wisdom of crowds,” measuring “metaknowledge” can separate experts from poseurs.

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Is it possible to improve the accuracy of collective knowledge? In this article, science journalist George Musser explains how assessing “metaknowledge” can help determine the accuracy of an individual’s knowledge, and thus, his or her value within the “hive mind.” Through practical examples and study results, Musser persuasively outlines why metaknowledge matters and explores how researchers can use metaknowledge to improve the value of survey data. getAbstract recommends this article to social scientists and anyone interested in the “wisdom of crowds.”


Why is the “wisdom of crowds” sometimes spectacularly wrong? To assess the accuracy of a crowd, you need to look at the individuals forming the group – more specifically, at the individuals’ “metaknowledge.”

Metaknowledge involves individuals’ awareness of how their knowledge about a given subject “stands in relation to other people’s” knowledge of the same topic. High levels of expertise tend to correlate with high levels of metaknowledge: The more you know about a subject, the more likely you are to predict the knowledge...

About the Author

George Musser is a contributing editor for Scientific American, where he focuses on fundamental physics and space science. He is author of the book Spooky Action at a Distance.

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