September 30, 2010

Collective intelligence in groups

The press release has more info. Not sure why the proportion of women resulted in higher "collective intelligence". The authors suggest that it is because of women's higher "social sensitivity". Personally, I think it may be because men (and women) tend to try to impress members of the opposite sex for obvious evolutionary reasons.

Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1193147

Evidence for a Collective Intelligence Factor in the Performance of Human Groups

Anita Williams Woolley et al.

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 individuals, 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.

Link

23 comments:

  1. "The authors suggest that it is because of women's higher "social sensitivity". Personally, I think it may be because men (and women) tend to try to impress members of the opposite sex for obvious evolutionary reasons".

    I'm with the authors. Past studies have reasonably demonstrated that women's brains are more oriented towards communication, which is a key factor in collective decision making. It is easy to experience in real life that women are, in general, less combative and more constructive, more concerned about the group's stability and convergence. Bumping heads, even between geniuses, is no way to make group decisions, listening to others is and, in this, women are on average better than men, maybe for biological reasons, maybe for cultural reasons or maybe for both.

    Call it the bonobo factor if you wish: when two groups of bonobos meet, males get excited and ready to fight, females sabotage that dynamic by sitting together and sharing food, what eventually also brings the males together. It does not happen in chimpanzees, which are male-centric, but even in chimpanzees culture is transmitted by females.

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  2. "... 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."

    Surprised?

    It's a no brainer that group decision making requires that people listen and take conversational turns.

    Women might be more adept at collective intelligence since their traditional tasks would have required this.

    It's important to keep in mind that women in groups can range from mean-girl catty to highly cooperative. So collective intellence isn't all "social sensitivity." It can also include highly adept social backstabbing.

    Men also have many ways of expressing social collectivism. It seems to be more non-verbal than woman. Men's hostile behavior is more direct, individualistic, physical and overt.

    Men certainly have a lot of trouble being told what to do by a woman. Evolutionary?

    Perhaps to some degree women's survival depended on being able to discern the intensions of the group, whereas men's survival and the survival of the entire group depended more on aggression.

    So I'm not so sure that these differences in behavior are necessarily or alone the result of trying to impress the opposite sex.

    Vive la difference.

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  3. Personally, I think it may be because men (and women) tend to try to impress members of the opposite sex for obvious evolutionary reasons.

    I think both your and their hypotheses can be tested with a detailed study of all-men, all-women and mixed groups. If you are right then mixed groups should be the collectively most intelligent on average, if they are right then all-women groups should be the collectively most intelligent on average.

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  4. As soon as I saw group intelligence (not sure "intelligence" is appropriate) I knew it would be about gender. Its surprised them my ass...

    "Also, in groups where one person dominated, the group was less collectively intelligent"

    Really... did that leader arise organically, did the group have time to adjust to the structure, were the people below the leader chosen? Probably not.

    Group dynamics aren't nearly as simple to test and many factors don't come close to describing intelligence.

    Read it closely, there's definitely a political agenda, which happens alot when using fussy psychology.

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  5. Hmm.
    I personaly think, "collective intelligence" cannot work as long as there is "competition".

    Brain cells dont compete with each others. They work as a collective.

    Ants dont compete with each others, but each does its task to archive the collectives goals.

    No collective intelligence without total submission to the system. Wich means: Becoming German. Haha just a joke. ;)

    There is also this stereotype about males and females:

    Several females work as a collective.

    Several men all try to prove how wrong and totaly inferior everyone but themself is.

    ;-)
    And every stereotype has a true core.

    Thats also analog with Darwins: "Men compete, women chose"

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  6. Personally, I think it may be because men (and women) tend to try to impress members of the opposite sex for obvious evolutionary reasons.

    Perhaps, in part - but also the opposite: even without the presence of women, men are highly competitive, and the goal of ranking high in a new-to-be-established social ordering often plays a prime role, easily ranking over conflict or problem resolution - leading to degeneration of many intelligent and social interactions.

    The presence of women (or otherwise highly-trained specialists) - especially if mature - can keep this derailment from happening in the first place. And, on average, women have better verbal and social skills, and are better "natural, intuitive" discussion moderators (in many directions: making it easier for high-ego people to be satisfied easily instead of insisting on strutting, making it easier for shy but competent people to contribute, and making it easier for destructive and/or incompetent people to be satisfied and shut up).

    I participate in many intense discussion and decision-making meetings, and have experienced few men who are - even when trained - as good at this as many women are "naturally" (i.e., because of socialization, different societal input and expectations, and a general genetic tendency that supports this). Of course some men are, but they are far and few between.

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  7. Read it closely, there's definitely a political agenda, which happens alot when using fussy psychology.

    I think this is a valid objection. Much of "social science" is actually bogus.

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  8. eurologist, it's always a pleasure to read your thoughtful comments.

    It would be interesting to see if the authors looked at female only groups. In my experience, there can be a too much of the "c factor" in some problem solving tasks. Many problems require a combination of competitive behavior and collective intelligence. I wonder about the simple statement in this paper that "the more women, the better."

    I wish the authors would look at different types of problems, for instance, ones that require decisive action, and then examine that male/female combination/interaction a little more closely.

    One final thought is that men become more collectively intelligent as they get older, perhaps through day to day aculturation by their wives and children.

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  9. "Men also have many ways of expressing social collectivism. It seems verbal than woman. Men's hostile behavior is more direct, individua overt. Men certainly have a lot of trouble being told what to do by a woma Perhaps to some degree women's survival depended on being able intensions of the group, whereas men's survival and the survival of depended more on aggression."

    ZZZzzzZZZzzz the myth that testosterone causes aggression and anti-social behavior has been debunked. People erroneously got that idea from animal studies but is not true of humans. Participants given testosterone were actually less aggressive and more socially conscious.

    http://www.physorg.com/news179504442.html

    Its quite simple but usually overlooked; men care about status making them socially conscious since we are social creatures. Men hunted in groups, men worked on and passed on technology together, men are leaders, and good story tellers. All of that requires communication.

    @marnie
    I remember you arguing against the idea of boys being better at math, funny his your singing a different tune now.

    Once its for women it becomes common sense...

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  10. "the myth that testosterone causes aggression and anti-social behavior has been debunked"

    Where in the quote you wanted to contradict with this does the word "testosterone" appear? It says "men", not "testosterone".

    Men can perfectly be competitive or "autistic" (i.e. not listening too well) regardless of testosterone. Of course, women can be too but I think that the case for a simpler, less perfected, social interaction approach among men can be defended as generally true.

    It would need to be demonstrated empirically, preferably in cross-cultural studies but for all I know it makes some good sense. It can be even argued that women's "more perfect" social strategies can also be manipulative more often than men, who may be more straightforward and stubborn in general. But some well used "manipulation" can certainly be useful to manage (notice the similitude of meaning between management and manipulation) the socius.

    This in Spanish is said "tener mano izquierda" (to have a left hand), i.e. not to be too blunt and pay attention to the others' points of view. I do think it is a trait easier to be found in women than men in general and, when it's found in men, it's usually considered to be a more or less "femenine" trait. A good one but not a macho one certainly.

    "Men hunted in groups"...

    Not always (Hadza for instance mostly hunt solo or, in some seasons, in pairs). Women also hunt in many cultures, even if their main economic role is to gather vegetables and hunt small animals. Women often do such activities in groups and organize themselves for children care.

    What is a myth here is the concept of the hunter social man. That's not even a society and chimpanzees are not the only reference (nor probably the best one) for human "essence". You must look at bonobos too, who look strikingly similar to our proposed ancestor Ardipithecus ramidus, btw.

    "men worked on and passed on technology together"...

    An unwarranted myth. As I said before, in chimpanzees it is females who pass on culture (including "technology"). Males don't seem to pass on anything other than genes, though they are versatile enough to be possible exceptions (though I know of no one).

    Regardless that typically the word "man" is taken to the letter (male) and most illustrations of prehistoric work represent men (males), when you dive into the real thing (real hunter-gatherers), women certainly have a much more central role and perform all or most jobs. Some of those jobs are typically female tasks, for instance hut construction. But all these things may vary from one group to another, at least to some extent.

    (continues)

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  11. (part 2)

    "men are leaders, and good story tellers"...

    This can be more real. But actually highlights the instinct of becoming the focus of attention, what is not good for collective decision-making. The press release also makes mention of strong leadership hurting "collective intelligence" instead of enhancing it.

    Fanty said before in this regard, I believe that with some reason:

    ""collective intelligence" cannot work as long as there is "competition"".

    I agree in the sense of personalist (charisma, power) competition. However there is another more productive form of 'competition', which does not try to win but to help in the best possible way, for instance trying to produce or the best idea or trying to help the group reach a good consensus. This "constructive competition" is not the same as "personal competition", even if you also test yourself somehow. I also have no reason to think that this kind of "constructive competition" is a "male" or "female" trait. But it can certainly be a huge improvement of the male basic competition "instinct", so it is something to cultivate.

    In most hunter-gatherer cultures anyhow, boasting is strongly disapproved. Instead the opposite practice (friendly ridiculing achievements in a joyful and unreal manner) is encouraged. At least it is true for Bushmen and it does provide society with a tool against individualism and personalist quarrels. It's a totally opposite attitude to the chimpanzee alpha male archetype, which surely does not easily apply among humans.

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  12. In most hunter-gatherer cultures anyhow, boasting is strongly disapproved. Instead the opposite practice (friendly ridiculing achievements in a joyful and unreal manner) is encouraged.

    That is why they are all underdeveloped. Patriarchal agriculturist societies, on the other hand, created the whole civilization and you are indebted your present comfort entirely to them.

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  13. I'd give all that "comfort" away, sincerely. It's nothing but a gilded cage.

    Anyhow, you are overdoing it by claiming happily that early agriculturalists were Patriarchal. There are very good theories that say the opposite, at least in the Balcans and West Asia, before Semitics, Indoeuropeans, and other backwater pastoralist Patriarchal ethnicities conquered them.

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  14. Anyhow, you are overdoing it by claiming happily that early agriculturalists were Patriarchal. There are very good theories that say the opposite, at least in the Balcans and West Asia, before Semitics, Indoeuropeans, and other backwater pastoralist Patriarchal ethnicities conquered them.

    BS feminist theories that no self-respecting archaeologist takes seriously anymore, you mean.

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  15. Just because you say so doesn't mean anything, Dienekes. Nor, uhm, wait, what a scholarly source: the Daily Mail! Description: sensationalist tabloid, supported fascism...

    Ok, there is an archaeologist, Lynn Meskell (on whom I could not gather much info), who thinks otherwise. That doesn't debunk anything.

    Of course I don't take any theory to the letter but there is certainly a lot of intriguing issues, not just in the figurines but in the persistance of Goddess or goddesses myths in so many places from India to the Basque Country and indeed within Greek mythology.

    What's wrong with most figures being goats? It is well documented that the black billy goat (yes, a male goat) was the animal symbol of Mari in the old Basque religion (at least). This animal was later demonized by Christians, as were witches (shamans, herborists and midwives). All that is particularly well documented in Basque history and mythology.

    And I'd dare say that maybe in Paleolithic art too, as most animal representations, at least in my area, are red (ochre) - and Mari is also traditionally associated with red animals: ram, horse or cow - but goat images are almost invariably black, as far as I can tell.

    Black billy goats were until at least my youth (I've seen some with my own eyes) considered good omen animals and often kept near the homes, as they were claimed to protect them from spirits or whatever.

    I don't know how much of all this is Neolithic, how much is Paleolithic or how much is something else. But I'm sure that some of these old beliefs are relevant to understand ancient religion.

    What I do think is that, while the female aspect of the ancient God is often more prominent, the male aspect also existed and was preserved till recently in Basque religion and to present day in some Shaivite variants of Hinduism. It's not a Matriarchal anything but a dualist male-female monotheism, somewhat related to Daoism maybe (though this Oriental version is more abstract and less personalized, even not really theistic).

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  16. It seems Luis doesn't follow developments in archaeology closely.

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  17. in the persistance of Goddess or goddesses myths in so many places from India to the Basque Country

    Goddess myths exist in both Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Semitic, and indeed in every known Eurasian culture that I know of, with the exception of the late invention of monotheism.

    The notion that Semites and Indo-Europeans established patriarchy over formerly goddess-worshipping peaceniks has long been retired, except among ideologues such as yourself.

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  18. "BS feminist theories that no self-respecting archaeologist takes seriously anymore, you mean."

    Dienekes, I've had enough of your unprofessional language and hostility. You've crossed the line before and it's unacceptable.

    eurologist, Maju, Andrew, and Onur, it's been nice talking with you.

    Now I have to make breakfast for my family, including my wonderful husband, and get the kids to Greek school. I'm glad that "Patriarchy" functions standalone, and that men do it all, while women sit around all day and eat bon-bons.

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  19. But, Dienekes, I mean Goddess (capitalized) in the prominent sense that the Old Religion seems to have got.

    Some of the goddesses found in later Patriarchal mythologies are clearly derived from those myths, for instance the surviving titan Aphrodite and the even older Gaia, ancestor of all gods. Even Greek mythology is quite outspoken about a Goddess standing supreme at the beginning of all (Uranos is her son or creation, even if also her consort).

    Others are more like token women representing archetypal Patriarchal roles (Hera, Hestia) or ideals.(Athena). In Nordic mythology this type is the common one and the goddesses of old, if ever existed, have become "demons" of sorts (Hela).

    But Hindu mythology retains pre-IE elements, specially in Shaivism and, of course, Shaktism. And here we see a close parallel with Basque mythology.

    In Basque mythology Mari is not "a goddess". In fact there is no plurality of gods (with minor and interesting exceptions) but rather The Goddess. The only comparable mythological figure is her consort, Sugar or Maju (the Dragon). But he appears much less often in myths, and in almost all as consort rather than independent figure.

    Another peculiarity is that Basque mythology, like Greek titans or other cases, is ctonic, not celestial. The sky is just a passage not the Gods and some genies like sorginak (witches, the court of Mari).

    But well, we are going off-topic. What I can say is that, in any case, Basque society was not "matriarchal" (matriarchy is a mirror Patriarchal myth, as with the Amazons) but was, as far as we can tell, softly Patriarchal, rather egalitarian. Distinct from the extreme Patriarchalism we see often among IEs and Semites (and other ex-pastoralists like Turks possibly). It was also a society whose values were not, as happen with IEs, "gods love winners" but social solidarity is important and "enforced" by the Goddess (or probably her more real cohort of witches, archetypally women but also men in reality sometimes).

    It was not a socialist society but it had a socialist component to it (and in the 20th century SW French, mostly Gascons, still tended to vote socialist and organize in softly patriarchal extended families, unlike other French regions of Celtic or Germanic background).

    It was also South French who promoted "proto-feminism" in the Middle Ages, relaunching the figure of women even in such a male-centric society. Of course there were other processes all around (Britain, Tuscany...) but this was indeed an area that was somewhat shielded sociologically from the worst of Patriarchy and Feudalism and somewhat central in the cultural renaissance of Europe from the ashes of the Dark Ages.

    This renaissance and progressive tendency may not have been possible if the worst of Patriarchy and social inequality at all levels was still at play. When the industrial revolution arrived it were also those areas with ample sectors of free peasantry which could take advantage of it, unlike the uber-Patriarchal feudal areas, which tended to remain underdeveloped.

    It's a complex matter but humankind cannot progress in obscurantism and oppression, except maybe in the military field. It needs a free and healthy (minimally solidarious, civic, participative) society. This is also apparent in the Athens-Sparta duality in classical Greece: Sparta was a military power but a cultural and economic nobody because there was no freedom.

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  20. But, Dienekes, I mean Goddess (capitalized) in the prominent sense that the Old Religion seems to have got.

    There is no evidence that the "Old Religon" had "Goddess" in a prominent sense. It's a feminist myth.

    Some of the goddesses found in later Patriarchal mythologies are clearly derived from those myths, for instance the surviving titan Aphrodite and the even older Gaia, ancestor of all gods. Even Greek mythology is quite outspoken about a Goddess standing supreme at the beginning of all (Uranos is her son or creation, even if also her consort).

    1. Aphrodite was not a titan
    2. Gaia played a virtually non-existent role in Greek religion.

    Please take your off-topic "progressive" politics off my blog.

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  21. "Aphrodite was not a titan"

    Daughter of Uranus.

    "Gaia played a virtually non-existent role in Greek religion".

    In classical times but she is an obvious remnant of the pre-IE times, maybe of an even deeper layer, pre-Dimini?

    "Please take your off-topic "progressive" politics off my blog".

    Sure. I'll remove myself altogether from your blog.

    So long.

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  22. "Aphrodite was not a titan"

    Daughter of Uranus.


    The Titans were the offspring of Uranus and Gaia; Ourania Aphrodite was born of the sea from Uranus' blood. She was not a titan, nor was she ever reckoned as one.

    In classical times but she is an obvious remnant of the pre-IE times, maybe of an even deeper layer, pre-Dimini?

    In no times was Gaia an importance goddess for the Greeks. There were local cults for some titans (e.g., Rhea), but the Greeks worshipped the gods, and Gaia, in particular had little, if any, role in their religion.

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  23. @maju

    You use inconsistent rationales and standards.

    I talked about the study on testosterone because many have used the effects of testosterone in certain animals to say it would affect men similarly. Namely to give credence to the idea that men use force and aggression in order to gain power, at the expense of sociability. Not only has this myth been proven wrong but it has also been shown that after administering testosterone subjects acted more fairly and less aggressive. The key point is that those administered testosterone became more respective of others which was said to be because testosterone increases sensitivity to status and increases social consciousness.

    Perhaps I was to subtle about it before but that point strikes at the very heart of many of your arguments.

    Then you talk about female chimps and technology... so you are talking about animals. Don't be ridiculous men dominate technology in human. Both the development and maintenance of technology requires communication and cooperation among men.

    You say men don't always hunt in groups... so what. It is still something social and something that was important and something that men do more than women. (You don't understand when to use exceptions. It would be like saying not all women used to breast feed so women shouldn't have breast.)

    "What is a myth here is the concept of the hunter social man. That's not even a society"

    Its not even a society... we're talking about people working together. Group hunters definetely fit that...

    As for your response to my saying that men are leaders and good story tellers reread my first post. As a side point both examples are a reflection of good communication in men, and good at understanding others. Also your concern brings us back to my first paragraph here.

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