Groups Solve Problems Better Than Individuals?

(Un)interesting new research says that groups solve problems better than individuals.

Groups of three, four, or five perform better on complex problem solving than the best of an equivalent number of individuals, says a new study appearing in the April issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association (APA). This finding may transfer to scientific research teams and classroom problem solving and offer new ways for students to study and improve academic performance, according to the study authors.

In this study 760 students from the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign solved two letters-to-numbers coding problems as individuals or as groups of two, three, four and five people. Previous research has shown that groups perform better than the average individual on a wide range of problems. However, this study tested the relationship between group size and performance as compared to that of an equivalent number of individuals by comparing the number of trials to solutions and answers given for complex problems.

So in other words, they performed a tasks that most people don't perform on a regular basis. Hence then compared groups to individuals when both parties were equally ignorant of the solution. I bet that individual cryptographers would outperform these groups.

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Maybe it is time for a post that details the circumstances under which groups are successful, and those under which they aren't. Sounds like a lot of work though…

Hat Tip to Geekland.