Aileen Oeberst, Ulrike Cress, Mitja Back, Steffen Nestler, Individual versus collaborative information processing: the case of biases in Wikipedia

Psychology has accumulated ample evidence for the notion that individual information processing is biased. Little is known, however, about ``collective biases.'' The chapter presented here takes the online encyclopedia Wikipedia as a sample of an outlet for socially negotiated, ``collective'' representation of events and elaborates on two biases in Wikipedia articles. The first investigation is into whether hindsight bias---the tendency to overestimate in hindsight what was known in foresight---is present in Wikipedia articles about certain events (e.g., the nuclear disaster of Fukushima). We next present evidence for another bias, namely, the biased representations of intergroup conflicts (e.g., the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) in the respective language versions of Wikipedia (e.g., Hebrew, Arabic). Although our findings indicate that Wikipedia is not free from bias, they do not suggest that these biases are universal (i.e., in all articles). Moreover, it remains an open question whether the biases we identified under collaborative circumstances (i.e., in Wikipedia) compare in magnitude to individual biases or whether they are attenuated or even possibly amplified in the process of collaboration. We discuss this issue with a view to potential necessary preconditions for collective biases and possible countermeasures.

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