Researchers Find Social Networks Can Make An Entire Society Smarter


VICTORIA, British Columbia (UPI) — Social networks are making us smarter, as learning from others can increase a society’s average skill over successive generations, Canadian researchers suggest.

The ability of a society to imitate and learn, rather than individual smarts, may be why some cultures thrive and others disappear, scientists at the University of British Columbia said.

When people can observe and learn from a wider range of teachers, societies can better maintain technical skills and even increase the average skills of a group over successive generations, they said.

“This is the first study to demonstrate in a laboratory setting what archaeologists and evolutionary theorists have long suggested: that there is an important link between a society’s sociality and the sophistication of its technology,” UBC doctoral student in psychology Michael Muthukrishna said.

In the study, participants were asked to learn new skills — digital photo editing and knot-tying — 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, the study found, and 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, sustaining higher levels of “cultural knowledge” over multiple generations, the researchers found.

The study has been published in the Proceedings of the Royal Academy: Biological Sciences.

UPI - United Press International, Inc.

Since 1907, United Press International (UPI) has been a leading provider of critical information to media outlets, businesses, governments and researchers worldwide.

Join the Discussion

Comment Policy: We encourage an open discussion with a wide range of viewpoints, even extreme ones, but we will not tolerate racism, profanity or slanderous comments toward the author(s) or comment participants. Make your case passionately, but civilly. Please don't stoop to name calling. We use filters for spam protection. If your comment does not appear, it is likely because it violates the above policy or contains links or language typical of spam. We reserve the right to remove comments at our discretion.