IQ Sometimes Influenced by Social Status, Group Setting


Last updated: January 25, 2012
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If you've ever been in a long meeting -- or a heated family conflict about caregiving -- this news will come as no surprise: scientists at Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute found that working in a group can lower your IQ.

Read Montague, director of the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory and Computational Psychiatry Unit, and his team tested subjects' IQs, assigned them to small groups, and let the group know how each subject had performed. According to PsychCentral, some of the subjects performed more poorly on group IQ tests after learning the group ranking.

"We started with individuals who were matched for their IQ," said Montague. "Yet when we placed them in small groups, ranked their performance on cognitive tasks against their peers, and broadcast those rankings to them, we saw dramatic drops in the ability of some study subjects to solve problems. The social feedback had a significant effect."

Researchers then scanned two subjects from each group in an fMRI scanner. Virginia Tech Carilion's press release reports that "Dynamic responses occurred in multiple brain regions, especially the amygdala, the prefrontal cortex, and the nucleus accumbens -- regions believed to be involved in emotional processing, problem solving, and reward and pleasure, respectively."

Additionally, this effect was seen more often in women than in men, despite similar IQs to begin with.

This temporary intellectual decrease can be a big deal since so much of modern society -- from family discussions to government debates -- involves group work.

"Understanding how our brains respond to dynamic social interactions is an important area of future research," said lead author Kenneth Kishida. "We need to remember that social dynamics affect not just educational and workplace environments but also national and international policy-making bodies, such as the U.S. Congress and the United Nations."

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