[Link] Study on Group Intelligence
Full disclosure: This has already been discussed here, but I see utility in bringing it up again. Mostly because I only heard about it offline.
Some researchers were interested if, in the same way that there’s a general intelligence g that seems to predict competence in a wide variety of tasks, there is a group intelligence c that could do the same. You can read their paper here.
Psychologists have repeatedly shown that a single statistical factor—often called “general intelligence”—emerges from the correlations among people’s performance on a wide variety of cognitive tasks. But no one has systematically examined whether a similar kind of “collective intelligence” exists for groups of people. In two studies with 699 people, working in groups of two to five, we find converging evidence of a general collective intelligence factor that explains a group’s performance on a wide variety of tasks. This “c factor” is not strongly correlated with the average or maximum individual intelligence of group members but is correlated with the average social sensitivity of group members, the equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking, and the proportion of females in the group.
Basically, groups with higher social sensitivity, equality in conversational turn-taking, and proportion of females are collectively more intelligent. On top of that, those effects trump out things like average IQ or even max IQ.
I theorize that proportion of females mostly works as a proxy for social sensitivity and turn-taking, and the authors speculate the same.
What does this mean for Less Wrong?
The most important part of the study, IMO, is that “social sensitivity” (measured by a test where you try and discern emotional states from someone’s eyes) is such a stronger predictor of group intelligence. It probably helps people to gauge other people’s comprehension, but based on the fact that people sharing talking time more equally also helps, I would speculate that another chunk of its usefulness comes from being able to tell if other people want to talk, or think that there’s something relevant to be said.
One thing that I find interesting in the meatspace meetups is how in new groups, conversation tends to be dominated by the people who talk the loudest and most insistently. Often, those people are also fairly interesting. However, I prefer the current, older DC group to the newer one, and there’s much more equal time speaking. Even though this means that I don’t talk as much. Most other people seem to share similar sentiments, to the point that at one early meetup it was explicitly voted to be true that most people would rather talk more.
Anything we should try doing about this? I will hold off on proposing solutions for now, but this section will get filled in sometime.