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Reasoning as a Social Competence

COLLECTIVE WISDOM, H. Landemore and J. Elster, eds., Forthcoming

34 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2011  

Dan Sperber

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Hugo Mercier

University of Neuchatel

Date Written: June 11, 2010

Abstract

Groups do better at reasoning tasks than individuals, and, in some cases, do even better than any of their individual members. Here is an illustration. In the standard version of Wason selection task (Wason, 1966), the most commonly studied problem in the psychology of reasoning, only about 10% of participants give the correct solution, even though it can be arrived at by elementary deductive reasoning. Such poor performance begs for an explanation, and a great many have been offered. What makes the selection task relevant here is that the difference between individual and group performance is striking. Moshman & Geil for instance (1998) had participants try and resolve the task either individually or in groups of five or six participants. While, unsurprisingly, only 9% of the participants working on their own found the correct solution, an astonishing 70% of the groups did. Moreover, when groups were formed with participants who had first tried to solve the task individually, 80% of the groups succeeded, including 30% of the groups in which none of the members had succeeded on his or her own. How are such differences between individual and group performance to be explained?

Keywords: reasoning, group reasoning, social processes, evolution

Suggested Citation

Sperber, Dan and Mercier, Hugo, Reasoning as a Social Competence (June 11, 2010). COLLECTIVE WISDOM, H. Landemore and J. Elster, eds., Forthcoming . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1862669

Dan Sperber

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Hugo Mercier (Contact Author)

University of Neuchatel ( email )

Espace Louis Agassiz 1
Neuch√Ętel, 2000
Switzerland

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