Today, the first Monday in October, is the first day of the new Supreme Court term.

If the exciting new research findings from MIT and Carnegie Mellon hold true outside the lab, it might turn out to be the most intelligent and effective Supreme Court in U.S. history.

The research, conducted by Anita Woolley, Christopher Chabris, Alexander Pentland, Nada Hashmi, and Thomas Malone, took place at MIT's Center for Collective Intelligence, and examined the collective intelligence of teams of people working together. It turns out that group dynamics influence intelligence: when groups of people cooperate well, their collective intelligence is greater than the cognitive abilities of the individual members of the group.

In other words, when groups cooperate well, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

These were small groups, of only two to five people, who worked on a variety of tasks, ranging from visual puzzles to negotiations. The researchers found that the performance of the teams was not primarily due to the individual abilities of its members; average and individual maximum intelligence did not make a significant difference. Rather, it was how well the group cooperated that made the difference.

What does it take for a group to "cooperate well"? It takes members who have higher levels of "social sensitivity," i.e., the ability to perceive each other's emotions.

Although the study was not designed to examine gender effects, during data analysis the authors looked at the number of women and men in the groups. It turned out that groups containing more women demonstrated greater social sensitivity and therefore greater collective intelligence compared to groups containing fewer women.

Today for the first time ever, three women sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. Will they help raise that body's collective intelligence? We hope so. More than even intelligence, we wish them wisdom.

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