Answer by Christopher Lamke:
At first, I found this question only mildly interesting as it pertains to Quora, but then I realized you’re actually asking a fundamental question about human groups. Thank you for asking this.
Is there a lot of group-think on Quora?
I’m not sure there’s a lot of group-think on Quora. I haven’t noticed it. I have noticed there are some answers that get many upvotes and others that seem equally good that only get a few upvotes. I have no idea what Quora’s mechanisms are for ensuring the equitable display of content, and of course we’re very unlikely to all agree on whatever algorithm is used and (just as importantly) the definition of “equitable”.
I would like to see an analysis of answers that are qualitatively similar and yet have a large difference in upvotes, to see if factors (other than group-think) can be identified that would account for the difference, e.g. time of submission related to the time that question was hot on Quora. This would be a time consuming process for anyone not working for Quora and having access to the engine and data/records underlying the site, and it wouldn’t be trivial even for a Quora engineer.
Quora has an unusually high percentage of people of above average intelligence and education. I think the majority of Quora users base their upvote (or downvote) on the content of an answer or comment, not the current vote count. Without an analysis like the one above, I don’t see how a regular user can determine this to any level of confidence without many weeks of manual effort, and that assumes the user has a good math/statistics background.
If there is group-think on Quora, how can we overcome this bias, on Quora and in real life?
I agree with the second part of your question, the tendency of even very intelligent people to prefer an echo chamber, in which answers reinforce their worldview, to answers that challenge that worldview. I’d love to have a practical counter to that tendency, as it underlies many of the most destructive aspects of human behavior. I recommend reading up on the theory that reason did not evolve as a means to find objective truth, but rather to win arguments. I find this compelling, as it has great explanatory and predictive power. There are two links on this idea below. If group-think is a major force on Quora, I think we need to examine this theory as a potential framework for explaining it and (maybe) countering it.