Thinking in groups
Is cognition an exclusive property of the individual or can groups have a mind of their own? We explore this question from the perspective of complex adaptive systems. One of the principal insights from this line of work is that rules that govern behavior at one level of analysis (the individual) can cause qualitatively different behavior at higher levels (the group). We review a number of behavioral studies from our lab that demonstrate how groups of people interacting in real-time can self-organize into adaptive, problem-solving group structures. A number of principles are derived concerning the critical features of such “distributed” information processing systems. We suggest that while cognitive science has traditionally focused on the individual, cognitive processes may manifest at many levels including the emergent group-level behavior that results from the interaction of multiple agents and their environment.