Aristotle's Hypothesis About the Nature of Collective Intelligence
Union College
January 10, 2013
Olin 107
Lunch will be served at noon in Olin 107.


In the "Politics", Aristotle wrote: "For each individual among the many has a share of excellence and practical wisdom, and when they meet together, just as they become in a manner one man, who has many feet, and hands, and senses, so too with regard to their character and thought." If a group is indeed "in a manner" like an individual, then collective intelligence may follow principles similar to those that have been discovered over the past one hundred years of research on individual intelligence. In this talk I will discuss parallels between several recent findings about the nature and measurement of collective intelligence in small groups and the mechanisms that explain individual differences in cognitive ability – such as information processing capacity, communications efficiency, and implicit learning. I will argue that intelligence, in the psychometric sense of correlated variation in cognitive abilities, is a property of all types of complex information processing systems in nature, whether they are individual humans, individual animals, or different human groups, and that this fact has implications for the study of judgment and decision-making by collectives.

Chris received his B.A. in computer science and his Ph.D. in psychology from Harvard University, where he was also a Lecturer and Research Associate for many years. He is now Associate Professor of Psychology at Union College in Schenectady, New York, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Neurology at Albany Medical College, and a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence. His research focuses on two main areas: how people differ from one another in mental abilities and patterns of behavior, and how cognitive illusions affect our decisions. He has published papers on a diverse array of topics, including human intelligence, beauty and the brain, face recognition, the Mozart effect, group performance, and visual cognition. Chris also writes occasionally for the Wall Street Journal. Chris is also a chess master and poker amateur.

Please email Kristina Striegnitz ( if you have any questions concerning the seminar series or if you would like to receive the seminar announcements by email.