Group “Intelligence”=Social Skills+Number of Women Members

Anita Wooley Williams

Anita Wooley Williams

A group’s “general collective intelligence factor” is related to social and communication skills, not to the average or maximum individual intelligence of group members, found Carnegie Mellon’s Anita Williams Woolley, Christopher F. Chabris of Union College, with MIT colleagues Alex (“Sandy”) Pentland, Nada Hashmi, and Thomas W. Malone.

Group intelligence was most closely associated with:

Christopher Chabris

Christopher Chabris

Nearly 700 volunteers completed an individual I.Q. test, then collaborated in teams to complete workplace tasks including:

  • Logical analysis,
  • Coordination,
  • Planning,
  • Brainstorming,
  • Moral-ethical reasoning.
Simon Baron-Cohen

Simon Baron-Cohen

Each participant also completed a measure of empathy  and social reasoning based on identifying emotional states portrayed in images of people’s eyes.

This instrument, Reading the Mind in the Eyes , was developed by University of Cambridge’s Simon Baron-Cohen, Sally Wheelright, Jacqueline Hill, Yogini Raste, and Ian Plumb.

Reading the Mind in the Eyes

Sally Wheelright

The ability to infer other team members’ emotional states correlated with team effectiveness in solving workplace tasks, but not with extraversion and reported motivation.

Teams that performed best in online and face-to-face situations, also demonstrated stronger social and communication skills:

  • Accurate emotion-reading, empathy, and interpersonal sensitivity,
  • Communication volume,
  • Equal participation.

David Engel

High-performing teams accurately inferred others’ feelings even when emotional state was conveyed without visual, auditory, or non-verbal cues, reported Wooley’s team collaborating with MIT’s David Engel and Lisa X. Jing.

CONCLUSION: Teams increase task performance when members have well-developed “Emotional Intelligence,” social insight, and communication skills and when the proportion of women is high. These factors are more correlated with effective performance than when members have the highest average IQ. 

  • How do you enhance a work group’s collective intelligence in performance tasks?


©Kathryn Welds


7 thoughts on “Group “Intelligence”=Social Skills+Number of Women Members

  1. fwade

    Awesome work! Even by your high standards.

    I’ll be reading it slowly… Enjoying your work.

    Thanks for what you do.

    Sent from my android device.

  2. kathrynwelds Post author

    Graeme Smith wrote:
    G’Day Kathryn, I guess that’s hardly surprising.

    Kathryn Welds responded:
    Thanks for your comment, Graeme.
    It’s heartening to know that this finding seems to make sense. As we track some of the U.S. Presidential candidates’ utterances, you may be among the Enlightened Minority.
    Thanks for responding!

  3. kathrynwelds Post author

    Rachel of TalentRidge, UK wrote:
    An intriguing article, thank you for sharing it

    Kathryn Welds replied:
    Thanks for commenting, Rachel. Elsewhere, Graeme Smith thought that the findings are hardly surprising, so good to know that they piqued your interest.

  4. kathrynwelds Post author

    Michel Peruch wrote:
    Another great article very well documented. I have taken the test Reading the Mind in the eyes a few years ago and this is far from being an easy one, but it’s fun to do and, as a result, now, I pay a lot more attention to all non verbal signs and especially the eys of the people I interact with. I strongly encourage everyone to take the test. Thanks Kathryn.

    Kathryn Welds replied:
    Thanks very much, Michel, for your First Person Account of Reading the Mind in the Eyes test. As a curiosity, the test was developed by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s distinguished cousin, Simon Baron Cohen – no joke.

  5. kathrynwelds Post author

    Michel Peruch responded
    I did that test again here and I would recommend everyone to do it! So fun and yes, challenging too..
    The Baron-Cohen family seems to have many talent… and very diverse.
    I had the chance to be for the first time in SFO 2 months ago and I now may say you’re lucky to live in a wonderful city. I just loved being there… and I will return! Keep well.

    Kathryn Welds wrote:
    We must connect in person next time your travels bring you to SFO, Michel!

  6. kathrynwelds Post author

    Rachel continued:

    Thanks for the link Michel, I have just used it to do the test myself for the first time and as you say it is fun, it also highlights how much we gain from very subtle non verbal signals .. going to share this with others thanks again

    Kathryn Welds responded:
    Thanks, Rachel, for sharing your experience and recommendation of Reading the Mind in the Eyes assessment @
    This builds on Paul Edman’s research on detecting emotion from rapidly-displayed “micro-expressions” –


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