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Is the majority always right?

No, this article has got nothing to with the democratic way of choosing a government in a country. In fact, when it comes to keeping a population of the order of millions or billions happy, there is nothing better or fairer than a majority.

What am I hinting at here?  The millions of decisions taken on a daily basis the world over in boardroom meetings and closed room discussions, where the majority is mistaken for correctness.  The majority could be right and more often than not, they are. But there is always a chance that the so-called minority is right.

In mathematical terms, if we define the problem as P (E) = percentage of people predicting that the event would occur. That means, in our case, if a group of people are sitting about predicting/suggesting the outcome of a certain event, the P (majority)>0.5>P (minority) and all of us would tend to agree that the event the majority predicted/suggested is more likely to occur. But probability is just that and the other event could also occur. Once the other event DOES occur, then P(minority) becomes 1 and P(majority) becomes 0.

There are three types of problems where I find this dilemma could come into picture:-

1)      SCIENTIFIC THEORIES: – Since ages we have been seeing that on most of the discoveries and theories, the society of scientists has remained divided.  Galileo Galilei and earlier Nicolaus Copernicus were the first to prove that earth revolved round the sun and not vice-versa. They were ridiculed by other scientists and philosophers. Galileo was also kept under house arrest for that matter.  Kepler also tried to prove it. It was not until the time of Newton when finally the theory was proven.  Galileo and Copernicus were wrong in a way as they said that sun was the centre of the universe, but that is still better than saying “earth is the centre of the universe”.

Scientific theories usually have to do with inertia and scientists in spite of their superior knowledge and education tend to discard new ideas and theories. One can say that any scientific theory could be supported by majority or by minority scientists. But ultimately, to be PROVEN correct, it has to be proved by strong empirical evidence or still better theoretical proof.

2)      DECISIONS DECIDING THE FUTURE OF AN ORGANISATION OR PERSON: – Here I am talking of those courtroom decisions and important strategic decision by companies. Often it so happens that a person comes up with an idea and gives arguments to support his theory. On the basis of his argument, he would like to garner support from the majority and push his case through. I would recommend a CONSENSUS here rather than a majority. A consensus means that the person has to get the support of each and every person. We are thus putting the decision of any single person to test to the greatest extent.  It might not guarantee the correct decision but at least we have tried our best.  The trial by Jury in US is a great example of this. I would recommend the movie ‘Twelve Angry Men’ for all those who have not watched it.

3)      DECISIONS REGARDING PERSONAL CHOICES OR OPINIONS: – BY personal choices, I mean the ‘n’ number of decisions we make or views we have on certain topics, books, movies, views about a personality etc.  Many decisions on ETHICS are also personal and a majority can’t always decide what is right or wrong for you. Some common crimes like murder of a human being are generally disapproved by the majority, or rather almost the whole population. But when it comes to killing other animals, the reference point of the matter and the argument changes for many and the majority shifts.

The majority here is very subjective and highly dependent on the group or the sample we are discussing and might not represent the views of absolute majority.  Let us take for example VEGETARIANISM. A vegetarian in a group with majority vegetarians can easily pin down a non vegetarian if he tries to argue against vegetarianism. Likewise, a vegetarian arguing against a majority of non-vegetarians would find it very difficult and would soon run out of arguments. No single person can be declared right or wrong here.

The same is true in the case of views on let’s say, a particular super hit movie.  Just because the movie was a hit or it appealed to the masses does not necessarily mean that the movie was well made. It might have been lifted from elsewhere or in some cases – the director might have held the audience ransom to a singular emotion or feeling barring which the movie would have lacked content. The majority would get away by saying that the movie was liked by all but in due time or in some case, even a generation later, the minority would be proved right. What I am saying is the next generation might find out flaws in the movie’s arguments or generally find the movie to be lacking quality irrespective of the reception it got on release. The opposite has happened in case of the now CULT CLASSIC Andaz Apna Apna. The movie was a definite flop when it released – in short, the majority didn’t want to watch the movie. But on being released on video, people eventually realized what a great movie it was and now almost everyone swears by the movie. As far as movies are concerned I have found myself on both sides.

Thus, it is not to say that majority should not be taken seriously, but what I am saying is think twice the next time someone tries to convince you by saying he/she is in the majority and you are not. What say guys?

  1. bala
    October 11, 2010 at 3:27 am

    u know the funny thing: everybody wants to be minority which makes them part of the majority. majority and minority are decided by the place u are in. so if anybody says he is in majority, he doesnt care for ur opinions.

    In stats language, sample view doesnt necessary need to match population view.

  2. Ramana
    October 11, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    Nice article. I find the janata-janaardan argument defending the Singh is King, next-Akshay-Kumar-hit tripe extremely irritating and uncounterable (falling under your category 3)!
    Was reminded of a similar article, check: http://passionforcinema.com/janata-is-king-stupid-majorityism/

    • October 12, 2010 at 10:12 am

      Singh is King. very true….
      I had Rang de Basanti and 3 Idiots in mind

  3. Nehal
    October 12, 2010 at 12:43 am

    Good thoughts….

    so now suppose u get my consensus on this one… can we say we are in majority ?? … is 2 a majority ??…. out of 4 ?? what if there are ppl who are indifferent ?? how do we account for them ??

    so now the question arises that we have majority on one side and minority on the other…. what about the neutral guys ?? how should we categorise the non-opinion, indecisive ppl ?? bcoz as of now they are neither contributing towards the majority or minority… and in due course if they join a paricular side, we can see the balance shift….

    so when u are talking abt majority and minority are u hinting towards a group that is mutually exclusive and exhaustive ?? also it might be possible that a person who goes with the majority is actually 60% agreeing and 40% dis-agreeing in his own mind….

    so hmmmmm…..

    • October 12, 2010 at 10:11 am

      If you are talking exclusively about THIS ONE, then it falls into the 3rd category, where as i said, the majority is subject to the sample. If both of us are discussing, then we are a majority or consensus. If 3 more ppl start discussing the opposite, then we are minority in the sample.So anyways, we r not talking about Mutually exclusive and exhaustive.

      If many such samples come together, or in other words, if almost a whole population is being taken into account, we need to look for indicators – no indicator maybe for a debate like this. But movies etc , there are sure indicators.

      And as far as agreement within the mind is concerned, what the person is believing more would be what he would come out with. But the 40% disagreement would help others to change his decision and the majority or minority will be able to milk this opportunity depending on the situation.

  4. bala
    October 12, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    yaar prash. for movies also there are no good indicators. how to define good movie is difficult task.. should we depend on critics to choose or is it our own understanding. if it is our own understanding, then majority likes it funda is valid. but if it critics then may be majority maybe wrong. how to define the indicators in movie?
    the films u mentioned has been praised by critics and liked by junta. so what is the indicator to say otherwise… is there any definite policy?

    my take is that we can like/dislike of film is independent of goodness/badness of the film…

    • October 12, 2010 at 9:48 pm

      my friend bala, the discussion here about the indicator is only about ON WHICH side is the majority. If the film is a hit, its is an indictor enough that the majority liked the film. Of course i am not talking about exceptions like a very costly 100 crore film which could rake in 90 crores and is still declared flop. Hope u understand the point.

      And about the film being good or bad, as i have said in the post, it IS a personal choice and u can choose your side. No one can prove anything. The film maybe equally liked by critics and public. But if you don’t like it u have every right to call it a bad film. You might put forth your arguments and you might have your supporters as well… In short, you just need not RESPECT the majority view and accept it on face value

  5. October 21, 2010 at 12:51 am

    Nice read. Enjoyable thought experiments. Keep writing!!! 🙂

  1. October 19, 2010 at 6:55 pm

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