Uninformed ‘vital for democracy’

The uninformed tend to side with the majority, the scientists suggest

Uninformed individuals are vital for achieving a democratic consensus, according to a study in the journal Science.

The researchers say that they dilute the influence of minority factions who would otherwise dominate everyone else.

This is because they tend to side with and embolden the numerical majority.

The findings challenge the commonly held idea that an outspoken minority can manipulate uncommitted voters.

“We show that when the uninformed participate, the group can come to a majority decision even in the face of a powerful minority,” said lead author Iain Couzin, from Princeton University.

“They prevent deadlock and fragmentation because the strength of an opinion no longer matters – it comes down to numbers. You can imagine this being a good or bad thing.

“Either way, a certain number of uninformed individuals keep that minority from dictating or complicating the behaviour of the group.”

Natural preference

But the effect has its limits. The team found that if the number of uninformed becomes too high, a group ceases to function coherently, with neither the majority nor the minority taking the lead.

“Eventually, noise dominates because there just aren’t enough informed individuals to guide the group,” said Dr Couzin.

Source: BBC News Read more

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