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Anand Kannan

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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 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.

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