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The study found that auditory communication alone can improve collective intelligence From Carnegie Mellon University

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According to foreign media reports, a new study led by Carnegie Mellon University researchers challenges the general assumption that video conferencing is better than pure audio communication in team work. The results of this study suggest that video cues may disrupt interpersonal synchronization, thereby reducing the collective intelligence of the group. At the beginning of 2020, when the epidemic broke out, many people suddenly turned to remote work, and it’s a good thing that they can easily communicate with colleagues through video.

No one really questions the effectiveness of communicating through video, because over the years, it has been widely accepted that video cues amplify effective teamwork compared to audio only interactions.

Collective wisdom refers to the idea that a group of people can work together to solve problems better than individuals working alone. Over the past few decades, researchers have closely studied how groups work together. It is generally believed that when nonverbal cues are synchronized in group cooperation activities, their collective intelligence (or group IQ) will be improved and the results will be better.

So if you try to copy the face-to-face interaction, of course, it is reasonable to think that adding video prompts in the interaction will increase the synchronization and improve the collective wisdom of the group. However, despite these general assumptions, few empirical studies can prove that video conferencing can improve the collective problem-solving ability more than audio interaction alone.

In order to study this problem, the new study focuses on two kinds of nonverbal cues that people rely on to achieve synchronization in group environment: facial expression synchronization and prosodic synchronization.

The synchronization of facial expressions, such as the response to other people’s smiles, has always been considered as the dominant factor in the formation of collective intelligence. On the other hand, the rhythmic synchronicity related to language and speech rhythm is considered to be the secondary factor next to facial cues in group interaction.

The new study recruited about 200 subjects who were divided into two groups. Each subject communicated with their partner remotely to complete a series of tasks designed to test their collective intelligence. Half of the students communicate through video and audio, while the other half communicate only through audio.

The surprising results show that video cues have no effect on collective intelligence. In fact, the prosodic synchronization of video group is decreased, which indicates that video conference will make it more difficult to synchronize conversation behavior.

Removing the interference of video cues actually improves the prosodic synchronization of the group that only listens to the video, and then produces better problem-solving results. This shows that the interaction of only listening to sound can bring greater collective wisdom.

“Our findings suggest that visual nonverbal cues may also allow some interacting partners to dominate conversations,” the researchers write in the new study. In contrast, we found that when interactive partners only have voice cues, the absence of video does not prevent them from communicating these rules. On the contrary, through more equal round exchange and better rhythmic synchronization, they can adjust their dialogue more smoothly. “

In video group, facial expression synchronization is realized, but it is often at the expense of prosodic synchronization. Video cues unexpectedly interrupt the conversation flow, which can’t be seen in audio only interaction. Overall, this reduces the collective wisdom of a group.

“We found that video conferencing actually reduces collective intelligence,” says Anita Williams Woolley, co-author of the study. “It’s because it leads to inequality in dialogue and undermines the synchronicity of sound. Our research highlights the importance of audio cues, and video seems to weaken the role of audio cues. “

Of course, this study is not without limitations. The focus is to investigate very specifically the value of facial synchronization in accomplishing specific problem-solving tasks. Researchers are well aware that when trying to achieve collective synchronization, larger groups may be subject to different requirements.

In particular, in large-scale collaborative activities, individual members of the team can lead the dialogue. Therefore, further research is needed to understand whether interventions such as consciously speaking in turn in a larger group can enhance the synchronicity of prosody.

It is not clear whether group familiarity plays a role in the generation of collective intelligence.

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