And the actual number of M&M's in the jar is: 2,166. We had them actually counted by two people two times each!
David Robbins of Campus Ministry guessed 2,168. So did Doug Kennedy of NAMESTAN AOA Office. This left us with an unexpected need for two iPods.
Because David was the first with the closest guess, we have sent him the iPod. But we couldnÂt ignore Doug who also guessed the same number, 2 days later. So we have sent Doug an iPod Mini.
Some other interesting information
Total number of guesses: 1,166
Low guess: 132
High guess: 135,000
Correct answer: 2,166 M&Ms (counted twice by two people)
Average of all guesses: 2,328
Average was within 7% of correct amount, even with huge variations in the guess
The average was more accurate than 93% of all the people who guessed.
The wisdom of the crowd
There is an important principle at work here. All of us together are smarter than most of us individually. This is the body concept at work.
Do you remember the Who Wants to be a Millionaire? television show. Remember there were some ways to get help when a contestant was really stumped. One way was to call one of five people they had designated as experts in particular fields and ask them for the right answer.
Another way was to poll the studio audience who voted for what each member thought was the right answer.
Over the course of the years, the "experts" offered the right answer 65 percent of the time. That's pretty good, especially under pressure.
However, the "experts" wisdom could not compare with the wisdom of the studio crowd. These audience members picked the right answer 91% of the time.
In his book The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter than the Few, author James Surowiecki documents examples. He says, "On problems ranging from the simple to the very complex, groups are able to offer collectively smart answers even when most of the people within them are not exceptionally well-informed."
Our M&M's-in-a-jar was a repeat of a familiar beans-in-a-jar contest. Our contest had very similar results, with the average being better than 93% of all the other guesses.