Tuesday, October 13, 2015

When the Majority thinks they are the Minority

Last week, I read an article about human networking, people and voting. The article titled, A quick puzzle to tell whether you know what people are thinking, was published in the Washington Post on October 9, 2015.

The puzzle that introduces the article is interesting and innocuously complex. The details behind the analysis are even more complex, but they apparently show how a minority can affect the voting of a majority because the majority thinks they are in the minority. It phenomenon even has a name, the "majority illusion," as it is called by network researcher Kristina Lerman

One paragraph from the article I thought summarized the underlying science behind majority illusions. "A person with a large audience spreads his or her opinions much more widely than the average person does. By definition, he or she has many more connections, which means more people are on the receiving end of the opinion. This gives a celebrity’s opinion outsize influence, affecting the local perspectives of many."

A very interesting concept which I believe we have seen occur during elections in this country. I think it also explains why so many organizations intent on changing public opinion use well known celebrities as spokespersons.

The article suggests that understanding the majority illusion has implications understanding important social issues like fighting HIV in Africa, understanding the role of the mass media, and fighting alcohol abuse on college campuses. 

Food for though on a Tuesday morning.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

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