Wisdom of Many in One Mind:
Improving Individual Judgments With Dialectical Bootstrapping
by Stefan M. Herzog and Ralph Hertwig
Psychological Science February 2009 20: 231-237
The “wisdom of crowds” in making judgments about the future or other unknown events is well established. The average quantitative estimate of a group of individuals is consistently more accurate than the typical estimate, and is sometimes even the best estimate. Although individuals’ estimates may be riddled with errors, averaging them boosts accuracy because both systematic and random errors tend to cancel out across individuals. We propose exploiting the power of averaging to improve estimates generated by a single person by using an approach we call dialectical bootstrapping. Specifically, it should be possible to reduce a person’s error by averaging his or her first estimate with a second one that harks back to somewhat different knowledge. We derive conditions under which dialectical bootstrapping fosters accuracy and provide an empirical demonstration that its benefits go beyond reliability gains. A single mind can thus simulate the wisdom of many.