A few weeks ago, I found this story on Science Daily. While I’m always skeptical of what I read in the press, the story suggests that there is a kind of intelligence that’s distinct from the individuals in the group:
To arrive at their conclusions, the researchers conducted studies at MIT‘s Center for Collective Intelligence and Carnegie Mellon, in which 699 people were placed in groups of two to five. The groups 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.
Moreover, the researchers found that the performance of groups was not primarily due to the individual abilities of the group’s members. For instance, the average and maximum intelligence of individual group members did not significantly predict the performance of their groups overall.
Of course, this once again suggests that there are aspects of our cognitive life that are inherently social. The hypothesis is that there is a kind of economy of cognition; in some sense, we need each other to think.