Having a High IQ Won’t Be Enough to Prevent Ecological Disasters

The findings could help identify why some groups better manage shared resources, such as water, than others. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

High IQs aren’t going to be enough to stop an ecological disaster. It’s going to take social intelligence, too. That’s the conclusion of a new study co-authored by a University of Central Florida researcher and published in the journal Nature Communications.

The findings could help identify why some groups better manage shared resources, such as water or fisheries, than others. And as Earth’s population is growing at a rate that is putting a strain on resources, finding ways to better manage them is critical. Jacopo Baggio, an assistant professor in UCF’s Department of Political Science and lead author of the study, said:

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Using a digital game to simulate a virtual ecosystem, the researchers found that when teams of people with high general intelligence, but low social intelligence, faced a situation where resources became scarce, those teams depleted resources faster, harvested less potential resources, and pushed the ecosystem to its limits.

But when both general and social intelligence were high, teams harvested a greater percentage of potential resources and kept the ecosystem from collapsing. Baggio added:

General intelligence helped people figure out the rules of the game and how the resources, in this case digital tokens, regenerated, while social intelligence helped people cooperate to optimize performance, says Thomas Coyle, co-author of the study and professor of psychology at the University of Texas at San Antonio, adding:

The work points to a need for education in diverse types of intelligence, says Jacob Freeman, an assistant professor of anthropology at Utah State University and study co-author, adding:

Coyle says researchers are still exploring ways to improve social intelligence. For the study, the researchers used a digital game where people collected virtual tokens in exchange for actual money. Participants were 216 undergraduates from two large universities in the Western United States.

They were randomly placed into one of two experimental conditions — either a game where the conditions began improving and tokens continued to be replenished, or one where conditions began deteriorating and tokens did not regenerate fast enough. General intelligence was represented by ACT and SAT scores provided by the universities.

Social intelligence was measured using a short story test that estimated the ability of individuals to infer others’ intentions and feelings. The test is often used to predict social communication disorders, communication errors, and the ability to infer the mental states of others.

Provided by: University of Central Florida [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

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