..........M......... Amanda Bananas ...... Essay

4997 words - 20 pages

BRIEF REPORT
When two heads are better than one: Interactive versus
independent benefits of collaborative cognition
Allison A. Brennan & James T. Enns
# Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014
Abstract Previous research has shown that two heads work-
ing together can outperform one working alone, but whether
such benefits result from social interaction or from the statis-
tical facilitation of independent responses is not clear. Here we
apply Miller’s (Cognitive Psychology, 14, 247–279, 1982;
Ulrich, Miller & Schröter, Behavior Research Methods,
39(2), 291–302, 2007) race model inequality (RMI) to distin-
guish between these two possibilities. Pairs of participants
completed a visual enumeration task, both as independent
individuals and as twomembers of a team. The results showed
that team performance exceeded the efficiency of two indi-
viduals working independently, indicating that interpersonal
interaction underlies the collaborative gains in this task. This
interpretation was bolstered by analyses showing that the
magnitude of the collaborative benefit was positively mediat-
ed by the strength of social affiliation and by the similarity of
verbal communication among team members. This research
serves as a proof-of-concept that Miller’s RMI can differenti-
ate between interactive versus independent effects of collabo-
rative cognition. Moreover, the finding that social affiliation
and communication similarity each contribute to the collabo-
rative benefit suggests new avenues of research for establish-
ing the mechanisms supporting collaborative cognition.
Keywords Collaborative cognition . Social coordination .
Visual enumeration . Race model inequality . Joint attention .
Cooperation
It is well established that two or more individuals can outper-
form one. For example, the average estimate of the weight of
an ox by a crowd is more accurate than the best individual
estimate (Galton, 1907; Surowiecki, 2004). In team problem
solving, brainstorming groups generate more solutions than
the same number of individuals working independently
(Osborn, 1948). In a task with noisy visual signals, pairs
who communicate their confidence to one another outperform
individuals (Bahrami et al., 2010).
Such findings are interpreted as the benefits of collabora-
tive cognition. However, a closer examination reveals that
these benefits can also be obtained from non-communicating
teammembers and without social collaboration. For example,
the average ofmultiple estimates from the same individual can
be more accurate than any single best estimate (Herzog &
Hertwig, 2009), and the benefit in noisy signal detection by
pairs can be replicated by simply selecting the response of the
more confident individual (Koriat, 2012).
These opposing accounts of the benefits of collaborative
cognition pose a dilemma. Either the benefits of cognitive
teamwork result from social interaction among teammembers,
or they are the expected statistical benefit of aggregating
independent responses....

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