Monday, March 28, 2011

Group Intelligence

The researchers find some quite intriguing – and counterintuitive – correlations between properties at the level of the individual and the level of the group. For example, one might “pre-theoretically” think that group intelligence is a function of the average intelligence of that group’s members. And one might “pre-theoretically” think that a group with a single exceptional individual would have a higher group IQ than one with, say, three above average but non-exceptional members. However, Woolley and her colleagues find only a statistical correlation between the intelligence of groups and these two member-level properties. In other words, it’s not possible to accurately predict how well groups will perform on a range of cognitive tasks simply by averaging the IQs of its members, or by noting a single exceptional individual within the group. These features aren’t linked – or at least not robustly – to group IQ, despite what intuition might suggest.

What, then, determines how smart a group of collaborating individuals is? The researchers find three individual-level features that correlate in a statistically significant way to collective intelligence.

First, the greater the social sensitivity of group members, the smarter the group. Second, the more turn-taking within the group, the better the group performs.
And third, the more women in the group, the higher the group IQ.

For any reader who works on projects in groups, this is good information to know!

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