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Should decisions in a group be based on Majority Rule ?

I always wonder if a decision in a group should be based on what the majority of the people like. The aim obviously is to please the most number of people, but each person experiences only his/her feelings. There is no collective group experience.
For eg, in a group of 5, if 4 people are for something, and 1 is against it. And by the rule we go with what the 4 people wanted for. And lets quantify success as +1 and failure as -1. What happens now is, we have 4 individuals experiencing success or +1. This is not equal to +4. We have not increased the success or happiness to anyone. They still experience only +1 each.

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  • Dec 18 2012: I dont think the rule is that simple. Rather, there is a set of rules that govern such a decision-making process. THe first rule is what you define as the Majority Rule. But in a rationale society ( Lets not include people who don't think before making decisions), everyone is given an unrestrained choice to explain why he decided against the majority. To illustrate with the pizza scenario, if the majority of the group decides to eat chicken while only one individual prefers beef, the individual could have reasoned out his decision. Then, the ultimate decision hinges on the magnitude of the reason. Theoretically, if the magnitude of the reason outweighs the social gain of the chicken majority, in the case of religious prohibition to chicken (just a assumption), then the majority might choose to conform to the decision of the minority. If otherwise, that means that the reason is unconvincing, then the minority would have no choice but to conform.
    However, the minority could also have the liberty to not stick to the majority's decision, if let's say he has the money to purchase his own pizza and he absolutely despises eating chicken pizza even though his reason is unconvincing.
    Or, chicken pizza could be a decision of lower priority in the minority's list of decision. So even if chicken pizza is selected for all, it may not mean that the minority loses out.
    So, there are so many mechanisms that are in play when deciding on something. In summary, it actually isnt rules that determine decisions. Rather, it is conditions that are in play. In general, the conditions would probably be: magnitude of reason for one's choice, degree of autonomy to choose and hence a derived level of conformity, and whether or not the minority has an evaluated value gain/loss by conforming to the decision of the majority.
    • Dec 18 2012: I agree to your point on magnitude of the reason. However, there are cases like elections and voting where they only do a count of how many individuals, rather than by how much each individual likes or dislikes a thing..
      • Dec 19 2012: Well in an election, there is a period of time whereby reasoning can come in play. An electoral decision basically hinges on social interplay between the groups of the election race. Among the groups, the act of convincing a neutral citizen or a decided citizen to vote can be willfully done by a member of the political group or a decided citizen. An individual from the minority is given the liberty (in a unrestrained country) to convince another individual why they should choose the minority's choice instead. The result of the election is thus an indication of who is more valued highly in the country. That means, the social gain of the majority outweighs the social gain of the minority.

        So in most cases, in an unrestrained decision-making community, the ability to convert someone's decision with reason is inherently given. Therefore, in an electoral or voting form of decision-making, both the counting (the mere descriptive act of accumulating votes) and the basing on like and dislike (the political chaos before the voting process) are part of the whole decision-making process.

        And (If you are wondering why Majority Rule is used in favour of, maybe, proportional representation in an election) it is expected that only one political party claims the sovereignty of the country. I believe that besides Majority Rule, there is only proportional representation as an alternate election method. Currently, it is rare to see countries practice proportional representation, for it is disastrous to political stability. So, there is no other choice but to stick Majority Rule for it is the least devastation-producing method to decide who rules.
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    Dec 19 2012: I was exposed to consensus decision-making in a dorm at Stanford. Consensus decision-making means that when a group has to make a decision, they keep talking it over until every member of the group agrees with the decision. Thus, when the dorm had to make a decision, they would keep talking it over until all sixty members of the dorm agreed with the decision. Sometimes the process went very fast, like five minutes. Occasionally it took longer, like an hour or two. But it seemed like a good way to make decisions, because everybody's position got respect.
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    Dec 18 2012: A "group decision", where everyone has an equal say, cannot be anything other than majority rule. If not everyone has an equal say then it is not a group decision.
  • Dec 18 2012: There are other factors involved. The total satisfaction at the end of the event can be influenced by the method of deciding, as well as the actual content of the decision. In your example, If the 1 person who is against something is a big supporter of Majority Rule, his dissatisfaction might be much less. If the 1 person hates Majority Rule and strongly believes in consensus, his dissatisfaction might be greater.

    Before making judgments about the concept of Majority Rule, it is also necessary to consider the size of the group, the characteristics of the group (e.g. diversity) and what other decision methods are available and feasible.

    Group decisions is a very complex topic.
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      Dec 18 2012: Isn't a majority determined by dividing the number in the group by 2, and adding 1? That's not complex (I know it's not because I can understand it).
      • Dec 18 2012: Your are absolutely correct, Edward, the arithmetic used to determine a majority is not complex.

        A comprehensive study of all forms of decisions made by all forms of groups, using all forms of decision making processes, is very complex. I know it is not simple because I cannot understand it, at least not much of it. I have read enough about this subject to appreciate how much I do not know.
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          Dec 18 2012: Ah! There's my problem. I don't know how much I don't know. I will add it to my list of things to learn. Thanks.
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    Dec 17 2012: Following your logic, your example would then be drawn, as the one person who voted -1 is equal to each individual +1.

    And what about the overall number of individual happiness? I prefer four happy people over just one and the majority rule over no decision made yet needed. By counting individual happiness we have +4 in your example against -1 and this result is not surprising. For bigger groups this counting method is called 'Democracy' and to my knowledge the best way to please the majority of people.
  • Dec 17 2012: I am finding it hard to explain. I will try my best.

    Lets take your pizza example. Four of us go to a pizza shop and find out that we only have money to buy a full single pizza. The shop doesnt sell slices, it only sells the whole pizza. And three people in the group like to have Chicken while the other guy doesnt like chicken at all and would want a Veg pizza.

    In this scenario, the group agrees to buy a chicken pizza as that is the majority. This decision is what concerns me. I think, just because three people are happy, doesnt mean that happiness experienced by any particular individual increases. And it is confined to the individual himself.

    What I am saying is, if the group decided to buy a Veg pizza, it is not that the 3 chicken lovers would feel so depressed (as in multiplied by 3). They will all experience what the Veg lover will experience when chicken was chosen.

    To conclude, the number of votes doesnt matter and decision should be based on other factors.
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      Dec 17 2012: I understand now. Let's say another principle of decision were used here that resulted in having veg for everyone. So -1,-1,-1, 1. Are you thinking that, all other things equal, this is just as good as the decision reached by going with the pizza that made more people better off?

      How about a principle of no food at all: -1,-1,-1,-1?

      I don't think many would think -1,-1,-1,1 would make sense here as a consequence, but some would prefer -1,-1,-1,-1 if equal outcomes is the highest value.

      Now there ARE other principles of decision that might be more ambiguous. For example, let's say going with the majority did not result in 1,1,1, -1 but rather 1,1,1,-25. There is a decision principle in decision theory called Minimax regret, which involves minimizing anyones negative toll.

      There are, of course, many cases in which social institutions properly, I think, do not make decisions by majority. In a jury trial, the standard for a verdict of guilty is not that the majority thinks he/she is guilty. Further, in some contexts experts' input weighs more heavily than those with no factual foundation for judgment. You wouldn't ask the medical specialist and everyone working at the grocery store to vote on a medical prescription and go with the majority vote.
  • Dec 17 2012: Good Fritzie. Of course, the group might be a family - Mom and Dad's votes may count for more.
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      Dec 17 2012: Or it might be junior's birthday and they might decide to go with his choice of cake and ice cream, though they would prefer something different. But in that case, benefits gained are interdependent, which may violate Anand's premise.
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    Dec 17 2012: It would help me to respond if you could explain how your abstract example advances your thinking on your question.

    Why are they making a decision as a group if there is not benefit to being part of the group?

    At a restaurant if four people want turkey sandwiches and one beef, the four should order turkey and the fifth beef.

    If people want to split a pizza and therefore need to decide together on toppings, the fact that they want to share assumes some benefit to everyone who went of sharing. If sharing is of less value to person number five than his prefered toppings, he should order his own single slices and let the others share.

    Perhaps you should put forward an example of the sort of situation you have in mind in which people are deciding together without there being a benefit to the members of the group of their membership.