Friday, April 5, 2013

Defining Collective Intelligence

What does it mean to say that a group is "intelligent"? According to new study co-authored by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University and Union College, group intelligence may not be quantified as the sum or average of the cognitive abilities of its members. Anita Woolley, assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University, set out to find the answer, which resulted in a study recently published in the journal Science.
For the study, she created teams of two to five people drawn from about 700 volunteers. The goal of the teams was to solve various kinds of problems, some of which had definitive answers and others that relied on innovative solutions via brainstorming. By studying small teams of randomly assembled individuals, researchers discovered that groups featuring the right kind of internal dynamics perform well on a wide range of assignments, regardless of the sum or average individual cognitive abilities of the group's members.  For example, there were two sessions in which Woolley's students had to decide whether the star basketball player should be kept on the team after the school found out that he cheated on an exam.

When the conversation was fairly evenly distributed among all the participants, the groups were more collectively intelligent, coming up with the right answers and creative problem solving.   Further, a group's intelligence, or its ability to complete a series of demanding multi-functional tasks, is positively linked to higher levels of "social sensitivity," a more equal distribution of member participation levels, and to the number of women in a group. On the other hand, in the sessions where one person dominated the conversation, the groups tended not to be as creative or balanced and thoughtful in coming up with solutions. In short, to do well, the group as a whole had to consider multiple perspectives.

Social scientists had long contended that a measurable level of intelligence in each individual person is a predictive measure of an individual's ability to fare well on diverse cognitive tasks.
"Evidence for a Collective Intelligence Factor in the Performance of Human Groups" has been accepted for publication in the scientific journal Science and was pre-published online in the Sept. 30 Science Express.

No comments:

Post a Comment