The Structure of Group Task Performance—A Second Look at “Collective Intelligence”: Comment on Woolley et al. (2010)

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Abstract

Collective intelligence has been described as a general factor that “explains a group’s performance on a wide variety of tasks” (Woolley, Chabris, Pentland, Hashmi, & Malone, 2010, p. 686), much like the general intelligence factor explains individuals’ performance on cognitive ability tasks. This construct has received widespread attention in both the media and academic community. In this article we reexamine the data from 6 previously published samples that have been used to examine the existence of the collective intelligence construct and show that the empirical support for the construct is generally weak. Specifically, we show that the general factor explains only little variance in the performance on many group tasks. We also highlight how 2 statistical artifacts—the apparent presence of low effort responding and the nested nature of the data—may also have inflated the little covariation that exists between group performance on different tasks. These findings suggest that there is insufficient support for the existence of a collective intelligence construct.

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