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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Wisdom of the Crowd and Framing Effects in Spatial Knowledge


We study the wisdom of the crowd in the context of spatial knowledge, asking participants to identify US states and African countries on unlabeled tile maps. We use two question frames, asking participants to select where the target is present or eliminate where it is absent. Participants generally display overconfidence, often selecting small regions that do not include the target. We find strong wisdom of the crowd effects by aggregating participants' responses, especially by weighting the individual responses according to the size of their selection. The weighted crowd outperforms all but a few participants for the US states and all participants for the African countries. We also find wisdom of the crowd within effects, by aggregating the present and absent frames for the same participant. We discuss the implications of our findings for understanding how people express uncertain spatial knowledge and the potential use of crowd aggregation in real-world applications.

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