Episode 644: How Much Does This Cow Weigh? : Planet Money The wisdom of crowds is an eerie phenomenon that informs everything from the stock market to the price of orange juice. We put it to the test with a farm animal.
NPR logo Episode 644: How Much Does This Cow Weigh?

Episode 644: How Much Does This Cow Weigh?

A friendship blossoms. David Kestenbaum/NPR hide caption

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David Kestenbaum/NPR

A friendship blossoms.

David Kestenbaum/NPR

This episode originally ran in 2015.

About one hundred years ago, a scientist and statistician named Francis Galston came upon an opportunity to test how well regular people were at answering a question. He was at a fair where lots of people were guessing the weight of an ox, so he decided to take the average of all their guesses and compare it to the correct answer.

What he found shocked him. The average of their guesses was almost exactly accurate. The crowd was off by just one pound.

This eerie phenomenon—this idea that the crowd is right—drives everything from the stock market to the price of orange juice.

So, we decided to test it for ourselves. We asked Planet Money listeners to guess the weight of a cow.

Spoiler: You can see the results here.

Music: "La Vie Paris" and "Happy Is As Happy Does."

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