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Need to solve a problem? Try silence

Need to solve a problem? Try silence

Are we really more effective in groups when it comes to solving problems? Not according to Sio, Kotovsky, and Cagan, the authors of the study “Silence is Golden”, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.

Researchers compared the performance of individuals as they engaged in problem-solving activities. Some were placed in conditions that required interaction with others, some were in

situations that did not. Surprise! Those who worked in silence got better results than those who were instructed to help each other and share their ideas immediately. Those who worked in silence also got better results than individuals who worked alone and commented aloud on what they were thinking.

These results can be explained by the mental overload that is linked to groups that “help each other”, which translates into being interrupted while you are thinking, or having to retain an

idea while others finish their arguments. However, the results can also be explained by the information research mechanisms in human memory. Ideas that are similar to each other have the tendency to mutually reinforce each other and are affected by the process of verbal expression, which limits participants’ ability to recall concepts that might seem unconnected but which could prove relevant when it comes to resolving the problem at hand. Under these conditions, the system seems unable to go beyond the most accessible (and often, the easiest) information, to the detriment of collective performance.

It is therefore crucial to develop forms of collaboration that systematically integrate periods of silence. The idea would be to combine the dynamism, pleasure, and mutual enrichment of

Groups.

Contributor: Gaël Allain Scientific director & Jean-Christophe Beau, founder of My Mental Energy Pro.

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