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Meeting of Minds
The performance of humans across a range of different kinds of cognitive tasks has been encapsulated as a common statistical factor called g or general intelligence factor. What intelligence actually is, is unclear and hotly debated, yet there is a reproducible association of g with performance outcomes, such as income and academic achievement. Woolley et al. (p. 686, published online 30 September) report a psychometric methodology for quantifying a factor termed “collective intelligence” (c), which reflects how well groups perform on a similarly diverse set of group problem-solving tasks. The primary contributors to c appear to be the g factors of the group members, along with a propensity toward social sensitivity—in essence, how well individuals work with others.
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.