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How Social Networks Are Making Us Smarter

How Social Networks Are Making Us SmarterMany believe the secret to why some cultures thrive and others disappear may lie in our social networks and our ability to imitate — more important qualities than individual intelligence, according to researchers from the University of British Columbia.

As published by the Proceedings of the Royal Academy: Biological Sciences, investigators show that when people can observe and learn from a wider range of teachers, groups can better maintain technical skills and even increase the group’s average skill over successive generations.

The findings show that a larger population size and social connectedness are crucial for the development of more sophisticated technologies and cultural knowledge, said graduate student and lead author Michael Muthukrishna.

“This is the first study to demonstrate in a laboratory setting what archeologists and evolutionary theorists have long suggested: that there is an important link between a society’s sociality and the sophistication of its technology,” said Muthukrishna, who co-authored the research with Joseph Henrich, Ph.D.

For the study, participants were asked to learn new skills — digital photo editing and knot-tying — and then pass on what they learned to the next “generation” of participants.

The groups with greater access to experts accumulated significantly more skill than those with less access to teachers. Within 10 “generations,” each member of the group with multiple mentors had stronger skills than the group limited to a single mentor.

Groups with greater access to experts also retained their skills much longer than groups who began with less access to mentors, sustaining higher levels of “cultural knowledge” over multiple generations.

According to the researchers, the study has important implications for several areas, from skills development and education to protecting endangered languages nd cultural practices.

Source: University of British Columbia


Abstract of people photo by shutterstock.

How Social Networks Are Making Us Smarter

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). How Social Networks Are Making Us Smarter. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 19, 2018, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
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