Study: Working in groups can lower your intelligence, particularly if you’re a woman

at 03:07 PM ET, 01/26/2012

Two brains aren’t always better than one. Neuroscientists have found that working in small groups tends to lower the IQ of some individuals, suggesting that social interactions can (temporarily) suppress intelligence. They found, moreover, that the effect was particularly prevalent among women. Science Daily explains:
An empty collaboration space in shown inside the offices of the Wikipedia Foundation. (AP )

Research led by scientists at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute found that small-group dynamics — such as jury deliberations, collective bargaining sessions and cocktail parties — can alter the expression of IQ in some susceptible people. “You may joke about how committee meetings make you feel brain dead, but our findings suggest that they may make you act brain dead as well,” said Read Montague, director of the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory and Computational Psychiatry Unit at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, who led the study.
“We started with individuals who were matched for their IQ,” said Montague. “Yet when we placed them in small groups, ranked their performance on cognitive tasks against their peers, and broadcast those rankings to them, we saw dramatic drops in the ability of some study subjects to solve problems. The social feedback had a significant effect.” ... Although male and female participants had the same baseline IQ, significantly fewer women (3 of 13) were in the high-performing group and significantly more (10 of 13) fell into the low-performing group.

The news comes on the heels of Jonah Lehrer’s latest book, excerpted in the New Yorker this week, which explores how collaboration has skyrocketed in academia and the private sector, despite ample research showing that group brainstorming doesn’t work.

 
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