Being cooperative is a sign of high intelligence, recent research finds.
More intelligent people tend to be cautious with their trust at first, then build it up with experience.
People who are cooperative tend to be more helpful, believe in teamwork and be mutually supportive.
In addition, those who are cooperative tend to be better at seeing the big picture and learning from experience.
Higher intelligence allows people to process information more quickly.
All these factors are signs that someone’s IQ is high.
Professor Eugenio Proto, who led the study, 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.”
The conclusions come from people playing a series of games that tested cooperation.
Each involved trading off risk against reward.
The results showed that people who were more agreeable and conscientious were also more cooperative.
However, the influence of these personality traits was dwarfed by that of IQ.
Those with lower IQs, the study found, tend not to use a consistent strategy and disregard the consequences of their actions.
The study’s authors explain:
“Higher intelligence resulted in significantly higher levels of cooperation and earnings.
The failure of individuals with lower intelligence to appropriately estimate the future consequences of current actions accounts for these difference in outcomes.
Personality also affects behavior, but in smaller measure, and with low persistence.”
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).