Majority rule can help solve difficult tasks even when confident members opt out to serve individual interests


When sharing a common goal, confident and competent members are often motivated to contribute to the group, boosting its decision performance. However, it is unclear whether this process remains effective when members can opt in or out of group decisions and prioritize individual interests. Our laboratory experiment (n = 63) and cognitive modeling showed that at the individual level, confidence, competence, and a preference for risk motivated participants’ opt-out decisions. We then analyzed the group-level accuracy of majority decisions by creating many virtual groups of 25 members resampled from the 63 participants in the experiment. Whereas the majority decisions by voters who preferred to participate in group decision making were inferior to individual decisions by loners who opted out in an easy task, this was reversed in a difficult task. Bootstrap-simulation analyses decomposed these outcomes into the effects of a decrease in group size and a decrease in voters’ accuracy accruing from the opt-in/out mechanism, demonstrating how these effects interacted with task difficulty. Our results suggest that the majority rule still works to tackle challenging problems even when individual interests are emphasized over collective performance, playing a functional as well as a democratic role in consensus decision making under uncertainty.

Scientific Reports, 13, 14836