Intelligent people are better at cooperating with others, new research finds.
While personality traits like being generous and conscientious have an effect on cooperation, higher IQ is the main factor that encourages people to work well together.
That is why people with high IQs are so essential: without them society would not work.
People with lower intelligence tend not to use a consistent strategy and fail to consider the consequences of their actions, the researchers also found.
Professor Eugenio Proto, who led the study, said:
“We wanted to explore what factors make us effective social animals.
In other words, what enables us to behave optimally in situations when cooperation is potentially beneficial not only to us, but to our neighbours, people in the same country or who share the same planet.
The research involved participants playing a series of games that test cooperation and how risk is traded against reward.
Professor Proto said:
“People might naturally presume that people who are nice, conscientious and generous are automatically more cooperative.
But, through our research, we find overwhelming support for the idea that intelligence is the primary condition for a socially cohesive, cooperative society.
A good heart and good behaviour have an effect too but it’s transitory and small.
An additional benefit of higher intelligence in our experiment, and likely in real life, is the ability to process information faster, hence to accumulate more extensive experience, and to learn from it.
This scenario can be applied to the workplace, where it’s likely that intelligent people who see the bigger picture and work cooperatively, will ultimately be promoted and financially rewarded.”
Dr Andis Sofianos, study co-author, said:
“The core principle of working cooperatively and seeing the bigger picture also applies to international trade, where there is overwhelming evidence that free trade is a non-zero sum game i.e. all parties could benefit.
With education, our results suggest that focussing on intelligence in early childhood could potentially enhance not only the economic success of the individual, but the level of cooperation in society in later life.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the Journal of Political Economy (Proto et al., 2018).