Dissent Collusion

Summary: Take turns being confronted with a group that’s presenting a united front, and grow comfortable agreeing or disagreeing with them.

Tags: Medium, Repeatable

Purpose: Working with groups involves balancing between agreeing with the group consensus when the group is wrong and disagreeing with the group when the group is right. Different people fall prey to each error at different rates, so this activity is designed to practice arriving at the correct answer.

Materials: You need a device that can access wikipedia, and a list of questions with definitive right and wrong answers. A list of possible questions is available here.

Announcement Text: Hello! We’ll be running an activity called Dissent Collusion, which is designed to help grow comfortable with dissenting or assenting to a larger group. Some of us may conform too easily to what others think, while some of us tend to dissent out of a defiant habit. Either way, you should expect some social pressure when it’s your turn, but the purpose is to have a safe place to practice the skill. We hope to see you there!


Dissent Collusion takes place in rounds, and each round has two teams: The Collective, and The Lonesome. Each round, you’ll go through the following steps:

1. Send someone out of the room or out of earshot.

2. Someone in The Collective will read a question (one that has a definitive answer, like the population of a city) aloud, and roll a six sided die. If the die shows a 1 or a 2, then when The Lonesome comes back in The Collective will try and mislead them to agreeing with a wrong answer. If the die is a 3, a 4, or a 5, then when The Lonesome comes back The Collective will try and convince The Lonesome of the right answer. If the die is a 6, then The Collective will look up the answer, and try and convince The Lonesome of the right answer.

3. For all rolls, The Collective will wait three minutes by the clock to discuss how they’ll go about it- and possibly to figure out the right answer themselves, if they didn’t roll a 6.

4. The Lonesome is called back in. They are immediately told the question, but are not shown or told the die roll. They have five minutes by the clock to talk with The Collective and come to an answer.

5. If The Lonesome is correct, then Team Lonesome scores one point. If The Collective succeeds (that is, successfully misleads The Lonesome on a 1-2, or successfully guides The Lonesome to the right answer on a 3-6) then Team Collective scores one point. Over the course of the game, point scores aren’t tracked for any specific Lonesome, but instead track how good all the Lonesomes are at coming to the correct answer and how good each Collective is at guiding Lonesomes.

6. Choose someone new to be the next Lonesome, and start again from step one.

Play can continue for as long as you like. The Schelling time to stop is once everyone present has been the Lonesome the same number of times. In general, people can join or leave easily between rounds.

Notes: Many of the questions are easier to get approximately correct than exactly correct. I’ve usually scored a question as correct as long as the first significant digit was correct and the order of magnitude was correct, except for dates where usually the right decade is “close enough.” You should feel free to adjust the questions and the required accuracy to suit your group, but it’s worth announcing how accurate a correct answer needs to be before you begin.

If the Lonesome is very confident, their job gets easier. Few Lonesomes can be mislead on “What is two plus two?” That’s fine, though if all your Lonesomes are very confident and correct, it’s worth making more difficult questions. In case it needed to be said, the Lonesome isn’t allowed to look up the answer before guessing.

The Collective is allowed to lie. In particular, The Collective is allowed to lie about whether they looked up the answer. Since it’s more likely that The Collective is trying to mislead The Lonesome than it is that The Collective got to look up the answer ahead of time, Lonesomes shouldn’t blithely trust Collectives claiming to know the answer, but sometimes the consensus actually does know things individuals don’t.

If The Collective accidentally misleads The Lonesome to the wrong answer when they were trying to help them find the right answer, nobody gets any points. If The Collective accidentally leads The Lonesome to the right answer when trying to mislead, The Lonesome gets a point, The Collective does not, and also this is pretty funny.

Making The Lonesome wear a silly hat is optional, but mildly encouraged.

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