The Majority Illusion

vooke

Active Member
Came across this article on an academic paper on the Majority Illusion which is basically overestimation of the popularity of a particular behavior or idea
https://www.technologyreview.com/s/538866/the-social-network-illusion-that-tricks-your-mind/
Overestimating popularity of an idea or behavior makes it easily believable or highly tempting to try it out respectively
And finally,explaining some well known phenomena;
I'm looking at the paper from a debunking perspective, especially 9/11. If one was to delve into the 9/11 CTs, the first impression is that majority or a significant number of Americans believe in them. Of course this is not necessarily so.

The other point of note and that has been raised elsewhere here is that the first key to walking away from CTs is to look outside your sources. For every CT, there is an active source of the beliefs either in shaping and or propagating them. These are the 'active nodes'.

And closely related to the above point is that our own beliefs or behavior is significantly affected by others'
 
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Rory

Senior Member.
Is this related to how when I've spent a few hours on flat earth videos and youtube comments the entire world seems insane, and then when I go back into real life I realise I'm actually never likely to meet a flat earther and they're more like 1 in 5,000,000?

Or when I read about Americans it seems the whole country is completely bonkers, but when I go there I see it's only like 50% completely bonkers?

Or how if I walk through an English town centre on a Friday night, it seems that people are just awful, when the vast majority are actually doing really normal things like reading books or being nice to one another?

Or the whole Muslim thing? Or the student thing? Or the young person thing? Or...

Should I click on your link and see what it says? ;)
 

vooke

Active Member
Is this related to how when I've spent a few hours on flat earth videos and youtube comments the entire world seems insane, and then when I go back into real life I realise I'm actually never likely to meet a flat earther and they're more like 1 in 5,000,000?

Or when I read about Americans it seems the whole country is completely bonkers, but when I go there I see it's only like 50% completely bonkers?

Or how if I walk through an English town centre on a Friday night, it seems that people are just awful, when the vast majority are actually doing really normal things like reading books or being nice to one another?

Or the whole Muslim thing? Or the student thing? Or the young person thing? Or...

Should I click on your link and see what it says? ;)
The article is quite short so it wouldn't hurt any bit going through it.

And yes, you're right. What you've described easily falls under majority illusion.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
I'm looking at the paper from a debunking perspective, especially 9/11. If one was to delve into the 9/11 CTs, the first impression is that majority or a significant number of Americans believe in them. Of course this is not necessarily so.

It's important to be able to see the CT perspective when you are attempting to debunk something.

For the hardened 9/11 "truther", they think that there are thousands of architects and engineers who have proved conclusively that it was a controlled demolition. They thin there is 100% proof of the use of nano-thermite, and they think it is physically impossible for the building to collapse without help. They hold these "truths" to be so self evident, and have been "proven" for so long, that they think people who oppose them are literally insane.

http://consciouslifenews.com/psycho...ial-despite-hard-scientific-evidence/1122104/
I don't know to what extent they think they are in the majority, but they certainly think that their position is the default one, the simplest explanation for what they see as the facts, so for them the "arabs from caves with knives" explanation of 9/11 is the extraordinary thing.
 

Rory

Senior Member.
The article is quite short so it wouldn't hurt any bit going through it.
Done.

Reminds me of the lead up to the EU referendum, when I spent time in both London and some small towns in the north of England. In London, I didn't meet anyone who was pro-Leave, nor had they met anyone who was pro-Leave, and couldn't understand why anyone would be; while in the north I didn't meet anyone who was pro-Remain, and they likewise thought all the pro-Remainers were idiots.

Conclusion: if a person only had access to the views of their local area and social circles, they'd probably believe that nearly everyone felt the way that they did (assuming they were in the majority).

It also reminds me of a time I was part of a large group who were on the same page and, after a certain length of time of that, it seemed like the whole world was that way. Quite surprising then to 'go back to the world' and realise it was pretty much business as usual.
 

tinkertailor

Senior Member.
When Hillary beat Bernie for the democratic nomination, I heard about 20 people my age all say the same thing: "How could that be true? I haven't met more than two people who like Hillary enough to vote for her." It shocked me a bit too, like I was so surrounded by fellow Bernie people that the possibility hadn't even hit me that perhaps Hillary had her supporters in other places. The very nature of my age and the people I primarily socialize with--individuals between the age of 20 and 30--made me think that we were the norm when in reality we weren't. Friends who were studying abroad in England said the same thing regarding Brexit.
It's a sort of altered bandwagon effect. Instead of assuming that because a lot of people believe something, that something must be right, I assumed that because a seemingly large group of my peers believed in Bernie, he must have a large following.
It's a lesson.
 

Rory

Senior Member.
That's interesting that you thought Bernie might be in with a chance: I've mainly been following the election by way of bookmakers' odds and according to them he was never really in it.

Following bookmakers' odds has also led me to believe that Trump's never been in with a serious chance of winning the election either. Whether that proves correct or not, I suppose it's meant I haven't worried too much about it, compared to others I know.

Latest odds, by the way, have Hillary at about 1/2 to 2/5, which is pretty much how it's been the last 4 or 5 months.

Put that way, they're giving Trump about the same chance of winning as Han has against Radwanska in their tennis match later today (stay tuned!)

Put another less savoury way, Hillary's about 70% and Trump about 35% (5% for the bookies).

I guess we'll see. And to bring it back on topic: watching Trump supporter videos and rallies is probably another nice example of the Majority Illusion. So many people! So much fervour! But, thankfully (hopefully), far from the majority...
 
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DougW

Member
That's interesting that you thought Bernie might be in with a chance: I've mainly been following the election by way of bookmakers' odds and according to them he was never really in it.

Following bookmakers' odds has also led me to believe that Trump's never been in with a serious chance of winning the election either. Whether that proves correct or not, I suppose it's meant I haven't worried too much about it, compared to others I know.

Latest odds, by the way, have Hillary at about 1/2 to 2/5, which is pretty much how it's been the last 4 or 5 months.

Put that way, they're giving Trump about the same chance of winning as Han has against Radwanska in their tennis match later today (stay tuned!)

Put another less savoury way, Hillary's about 70% and Trump about 35% (5% for the bookies).

I guess we'll see. And to bring it back on topic: watching Trump supporter videos and ralleys is probably another nice example of the Majority Illusion. So many people! So much fervour! But, thankfully (hopefully), far from the majority...

I believe the bookies had the Brexit vote with 'Stay' the favourite. I guess it will come down to who can convince enough peeps to vote in the US elections.
 

Hevach

Senior Member.
It's important to be able to see the CT perspective when you are attempting to debunk something.
To build on your post: Part of their perspective is the echo chamber they see their version in. If dissent isn't excluded outright, it's attacked and ridiculed, often viciously, until it gets up and leaves. It looks a lot like everybody agrees with you when you lock the door and only let people in who already agree with you.

It's fairly normal to assume the groups you're part of reflect society as a whole, even though they almost never do, they reflect you as an individual much more. Their little social media groups reflect themselves, Metabunk reflects us, both small segments of society as a whole where the majority opinion is probably somewhere between, "I don't want to hear your crazy conspiracy theories," and "I don't particularly care how well you've proven that the first guy is wrong on the internet."


It's a lot like that Trump rally mentioned above - all those people, all that fervor, how much dissent? There used to be one or two now and then, but it got less and less and now you don't really hear much anymore. That looks a lot like a winning majority if most of your exposure to the election is inside that rally.


For another example, take Ken Ham's antics around his new theme park opening:
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friend...out-ark-encounters-attendance-on-opening-day/

The short version: There were a couple dozen protesters, but thousands of specially invited VIPs came to the pre-opening party, therefore by his logic, young earth creationists outnumber evolutionists by a similar ratio of hundreds-to-one in the population as a whole (he has not applied this logic to the vanishingly absent attendance once the place opened). In reality, neither the protesters nor the partygoers nor the visitor "crowds" are particularly representative of anything more than themselves.
 

Rory

Senior Member.
I believe the bookies had the Brexit vote with 'Stay' the favourite. I guess it will come down to who can convince enough peeps to vote in the US elections.
That one was much closer and difficult to call; I remember a week or so before the vote the polls had 'Leave' in the lead, while 'Remain' was favourite with the bookies. I guess the difficulty in prediction was reflected in the result (51.9% to 48.1%).

Still, it was a good reminder not to read too much into bookies' odds. I had seen previous articles that demonstrated they had been very succesful in predicting election results, and often better than polls, but obviously not always. In this case, the bookies' odds were representative of most of the money being placed on 'Remain' (about 75% of £40m total). And as the head of political betting at Ladbrokes said in a blog post the day after the referendum, "The truth is that bookies do not offer markets on political events to help people forecast the results. We do it to turn a profit (or at least not lose too much)."

Regarding the US election, then, perhaps we should be scared, as polls now have Trump ahead. If only I'd put some cash on him when he was 15/1! Then, either way, it's win-win. Like backing against your favourite team, to ensure a smile whatever the outcome.

(PS Radwanska came from a set down to beat Han. I think that means...the US could well have its first blond president. :eek:)
 
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Hama Neggs

Senior Member.
Somewhere inside this notion must fit the chronic CT idea that no regular citizen would ever watch vids about or care about something they think is total nonsense, so that must mean that any dissent and debunking has to be coming from people who are being paid to do so.
 

tinkertailor

Senior Member.
That's interesting that you thought Bernie might be in with a chance: I've mainly been following the election by way of bookmakers' odds and according to them he was never really in it.

Following bookmakers' odds has also led me to believe that Trump's never been in with a serious chance of winning the election either. Whether that proves correct or not, I suppose it's meant I haven't worried too much about it, compared to others I know.

Latest odds, by the way, have Hillary at about 1/2 to 2/5, which is pretty much how it's been the last 4 or 5 months.

Put that way, they're giving Trump about the same chance of winning as Han has against Radwanska in their tennis match later today (stay tuned!)

Put another less savoury way, Hillary's about 70% and Trump about 35% (5% for the bookies).

I guess we'll see. And to bring it back on topic: watching Trump supporter videos and rallies is probably another nice example of the Majority Illusion. So many people! So much fervour! But, thankfully (hopefully), far from the majority...
Looking at the state primaries, it is still pretty incredible that an angry frumpy old socialist man got as far as he did with the audience he had. I kinda knew that the majority of American democrats weren't really interested in Bernie's ideals, but you get swept away in the fervor. It's my first presidential election, I guess I was just enjoying myself. I know a guy who went to four Bernie rallies all over the country. He said that each place was full to the brim and more people were wanting to get in. This guy went to the ginormous one in Portland (with the bird), two in the SF bay area, and one in Sacramento. Pretty incredible.
I hope you're right about Mr. Trump. Christ, I hope you're right. If they're just a vocal minority I'll sleep better at night, that's for sure...
 

DougW

Member
That one was much closer and difficult to call; I remember a week or so before the vote the polls had 'Leave' in the lead, while 'Remain' was favourite with the bookies. I guess the difficulty in prediction was reflected in the result (51.9% to 48.1%).

Still, it was a good reminder not to read too much into bookies' odds. I had seen previous articles that demonstrated they had been very succesful in predicting election results, and often better than polls, but obviously not always. In this case, the bookies' odds were representative of most of the money being placed on 'Remain' (about 75% of £40m total). And as the head of political betting at Ladbrokes said in a blog post the day after the referendum, "The truth is that bookies do not offer markets on political events to help people forecast the results. We do it to turn a profit (or at least not lose too much)."

Regarding the US election, then, perhaps we should be scared, as polls now have Trump ahead. If only I'd put some cash on him when he was 15/1! Then, either way, it's win-win. Like backing against your favourite team, to ensure a smile whatever the outcome.

(PS Radwanska came from a set down to beat Han. I think that means...the US could well have its first blond president. :eek:)

Yeah ya never know with those bookies - dodgy mugs...all of them :)
Just checked the US election odds with a couple of bookies in Australia - Hillary is fav $1.48aud - The Trump $2.60aud.
Hopefully Trump will motivate a lot of people to come out and vote against him out of fear he could win.
Then again witnessing America's first ever orange President with pink eyes would be history in the making :) lol
 

DougW

Member
The early part of this vid that I copied from the flat earth thread Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpQb4tTRX5I really blends well into this topic - they talk about a petition that someone is doing to hand to NASA or the US Government to question about flat earth cover ups or something like that (sorry I can't stomach the thought of watching it again to be more factual) Anyway they need 100k of signatures and after about 4 weeks they only have just over 2k - they question that and then out come the excuses and CT's. I think it's within the first 5 mins - don't watch more than 10mins - you'll never get that time back again :)
It's (in my eyes) a classic example of a small group of people who hang together and believe they are much larger group than the possible reality.
 

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