I originally posted this question on the Philosophy.SE Meta site, but someone recommended that I post it here instead to get a more varied set of responses from experienced users. I'm aware that it's similar to this question, but that one is fairly old and I imagine the system has changed much since then, not to mention policy; plus, I want to generate new discussion and ideas.
I'm still relatively new to this site, and although I used to frequent other SE sites going back several years, I haven't come across anything that suggests to me that there is something in place to prevent a "cementing" of acceptable answers to questions that may have better answers added later on, but because of several factors will never get voted up past the original answers.
Allow me to clarify. Suppose I see a question on the site, and a particular answer given has several upvotes and it's not really a bad answer, sure. But suppose you know the topic even better and are able to write a more thorough, complete answer to the question that really is, in fact, a much better answer. Unfortunately, there are just too many variables related to human performance and system design that prevent your answer from ever reaching the top in terms of votes, not to mention being the new "accepted" answer. I have identified two major factors below:
With questions that have many answers, particularly a large collection of lengthy ones, users will tend to—as a statistical mean—ignore the lower down answers and only read the top ones until they become otherwise bored (move on and do something else) or satisfied with one of the earlier answers (and upvote it). They may accept a mediocre answer simply because they desire to accept something (particularly on a popular answer) but don't want to have to read every single answer in the list.
Old questions will tend to get re-evaluated less and less, at somewhat of a positive exponential rate based on how old the question is. The great thing about recent questions is that the wealth of users are willing to give it a once over and vote. But people might not want to reevaluate an old question they already looked that, and if the question is particularly old, the user might not even still be active. Thus, even though a newer answer might be better, the first answers will have so many upvotes that, without a constantly growing stream of members or perfect re-evaluation from the users, new (better) answers will be hard pressed to pass old (not as good) answers.
Is there any policy, system design, or other implementation in place to remedy such a drawback? Or is this simply accepted as an inevitable part of dealing with humans (as it is in many systems)? I know you can sort questions by "active" which definitely helps, although the default and perhaps most useful sort is by votes, useful especially when you just want to know the answer to the question and don't really care about contributing. As an engineering psychologist, many potential solutions to this come to mind, both in policy and system design; I was just curious as to what is in place here.
Note that the problem I outlined here applies most to the SE sites where a specific, precise, technical answer is not feasible (i.e. Philosophy). There are only so many ways to write a specific line of code or show how
1 + 1 = 2. But on several of the SE 2.0 sites, there are many ways to answer a question, and answers will tend to have to be weighed against each other as opposed to simply being checked for accuracy. That is, two answers can be correct while also being fundamentally different responses.