Group intelligence, sometimes referred to as collective intelligence, is not a new idea. The idea has been around since at least the beginning of the 1900s, originally theorized by entomologists while discussing insect behavior (i.e. bee and ant colonies). Now, the existence of group intelligence in humans is being researched across the nation. Most recently, MIT released a groundbreaking study comparing group intelligence to individual intelligence and analyzing how individual group members affect group intelligence. The results were surprising.
To arrive at their finding, the researchers conducted studies at MIT’s Center for Collective Intelligence and Carnegie Mellon with 699 participants. Placed in groups of 2 to 5 participants, they worked together on tasks that ranged from visual puzzles to negotiations, brainstorming, games and complex rule-based design assignments. The researchers concluded that a group’s collective intelligence accounted for about 40 percent of the variation in performance on this wide range of tasks.
There were some very surprising findings. First of all, the study showed that the group’s IQ was consistently higher than any individual within the group’s IQ. This means we are smarter together. No wonders cooperative learning shows high learning gains in our students! Second of all, the average IQ of group members did not accurately predict the best performing group. Instead, group members’ interpersonal skills seemed to play a larger role than their intelligences. Finally, the results showed groups with more females tended to do better than groups with more males.
This kind of research brings more questions than it does answers. Clearly, this is something that needs to be researched more before drawing hard conclusions about how group intelligence works. Nevertheless, it is clear that our efforts towards more group learning are well directed.