Editor's Pick for: L. Michelle Bennett
Engel D, Woolley AW, Jing LX, Chabris CF, Malone TW. Reading the Mind in the Eyes or Reading between the Lines? Theory of Mind Predicts Collective Intelligence Equally Well Online and Face-To-Face. PLoS ONE. 2014 Dec 16;9(12):e115212.
Recent research with face-to-face groups found that a measure of general group
effectiveness (called ‘‘collective intelligence’’) predicted a group’s performance on a
wide range of different tasks. The same research also found that collective
intelligence was correlated with the individual group members’ ability to reason
about the mental states of others (an ability called ‘‘Theory of Mind’’ or ‘‘ToM’’).
Since ToM was measured in this work by a test that requires participants to ‘‘read’’
the mental states of others from looking at their eyes (the ‘‘Reading the Mind in the
Eyes’’ test), it is uncertain whether the same results would emerge in online groups
where these visual cues are not available. Here we find that: (1) a collective
intelligence factor characterizes group performance approximately as well for online
groups as for face-to-face groups; and (2) surprisingly, the ToM measure is equally
predictive of collective intelligence in both face-to-face and online groups, even
though the online groups communicate only via text and never see each other at all.
This provides strong evidence that ToM abilities are just as important to group
performance in online environments with limited nonverbal cues as they are faceto-
face. It also suggests that the Reading the Mind in the Eyes test measures a
deeper, domain-independent aspect of social reasoning, not merely the ability to
recognize facial expressions of mental states.
Online at: http://www.plosone.org/article/fetchObject.action?uri=info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0115212&representation=PDF
collective intelligence, theory of mind, online groups
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