'Attending meetings can lower your IQ'

How often do you attend meetings at your workplace? If a new research is to be believed, they can make you act "brain-dead", impairing your ability to think for yourself.

A team at the Virginia Tech Crilion Research institute in the US found that the performance of people in IQ tests after meetings was significantly lower than those who are left to decide on their own.

And women were more likely to perform worse than men, found the study, published in journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.

"You may joke about how committee meetings make you feel brain-dead, but our findings suggest that they may make you act brain-dead as well," Read Montague, who led the study, was quoted as saying by the Daily Telegraph.

"We started with individuals who were matched for their IQ. Yet when we placed them in small groups, ranked their performance on cognitive tasks against their peers, and broadcast those rankings to them, we saw dramatic drops in the ability of some study subjects to solve problems," Montague said. "The social feedback had a significant effect."

For their study, Montague and colleagues pitted students from two universities with an average IQ of 126 against each other. They were also told how they were performing in comparison to the others after answering each question.

It was found that most people performed worse when they were ranked against their peers, suggesting social situation itself affected how well they completed the IQ tests.

Women were affected by the situation more clearly than men. Three out of 13 women remained in the high-performing group while ten out of 13 fell into the low performing group.

Subsequent MRI scans showed different areas of the brain associated with problem solving, emotion, and reward were activated when carrying out the tasks, the researchers said.

Senior study researcher Kenneth Kishida said: "Our study highlights the unexpected and dramatic consequences even subtle social signals in group settings may have on individual cognitive functioning.

"And, through neuroimaging, we were able to document the very strong neural responses that those social cues can elicit. We don't know how much these effects are present in real-world settings.

"But given the potentially harmful effects of the social status assignments and the correlation with specific neural signals, future research should be devoted to what, exactly, society is selecting for in competitive learning and workplace environments."

"By placing an emphasis on competition, for example, are we missing a large segment of the talent pool?" he asked.

Co-author Steven Quartz, professor of philosophy in the Social Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, said: "This study tells us the idea that IQ is something we can reliably measure in isolation without considering how it interacts with social context is essentially flawed.

"Furthermore, this suggests that the idea of a division between social and cognitive processing in the brain is really pretty artificial. The two deeply interact with each other."

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