New study finds group interaction lowers problem solving ability

You’re Right! Meetings Actually Do Make You Stupider

Attention: are you a corporate shill? Do you spend many of your billable hours in overlong meetings with an intellectually trudging project leader? Are you watching the clock, screening co-workers calls and marking your boss’s e-mails as spam? Well, turns out you may feel that way because the very premise of “meetings” includes an ensemble cast of your company’s cubicle-piloting can-doers and scientific evidence that the very meeting you’re dreading is also sucking down your IQ points like a strawberry milkshake.

A new study has found that group interactions actually lower your intelligence (read: “make you dumber” if you just got out of one).

“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 the Computational Psychiatry Unit at the institute, who led the study.

The study: Scientists in Virginia matched groups according to IQ, ranked the performance of the group members on cognitive tasks against the each other, and then revealed the rankings. When group members were told how others had performed, “we saw dramatic drops in the ability of some study subjects to solve problems,” explains the lead researcher. “The social feedback had a significant effect.”The scientists used an MRI to read the results.

What it means: You feel pressure in a group, and tend to think-without-thinking that you’re not as smart as the other members in your pack. This assumption has something of a psycho-somatic effect on your brain, actually making you less able to solve problems.

Sorry ladies! Likely due to your increased ability over men to be empathic, you’re actually much more vulnerable to this effect. The lead author added: “Our study highlights the unexpected and dramatic consequences even subtle social signals in group settings may have on individual cognitive functioning.”

Also, we shouldn’t just give meetings all the criticism. This can apply to any social function: Pictionary with friends, a dinner party, or a night at the pub with your roommates (though other factors are probably involved in that one).

Because I care, you have my permission to print this off and use it as an excuse to get out of that meeting you’re dreading this week.