One of the most replicated results in psychological research shows that people who do well on one mental task tend to do well on most others. Technically, this is referred to as the g factor or general intelligence factor that takes into account a large chunk of the differences in intelligence amongst people. The new paper “Evidence for a Collective Intelligence Factor in the Performance of Human Groups” (published October 29, 2010 in Science) asked if there is a similar factor for groups of people that would define a group’s collective intelligence factor, the c factor, which would be distinct from individual general intelligence factors.
They found that a general collective intelligence factor exists in groups. They found that the c factor was distinct from (was not predicted by) the average individual intelligence of the group members. Also, group cohesion, motivation, and satisfaction were not good predictors of the value of the c factor. Three factors were significant predictors of the value of the c factor: average social sensitivity, the equal distribution of conversational turn taking, and the proportion of females in the group. It turned out that the last factor, the number of females in the group, was due to the first, average social sensitivity. The females in the study scored higher than the males in social sensitivity and, in fact, there’s been a lot of research that suggests females are more socially sensitive.
If the c factor does exist as this research suggests, I wonder how the results of research published this past August may fit in. The study showed that when two people with different abilities collaborate, they perform worse as a team than the best performer would on their own (see my blog post “Two Minds Better Than One? Sometimes Worse!“).
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