There is widespread recognition in the economics literature that ‘non-cognitive’ skills – including social skills and leadership skills – are strongly associated with labor-market outcomes (e.g. Heckman & Kautz, 2012). This research is strengthened by evidence showing that employers explicitly demand these skills (NACE, 2015), and that the value of social skills is growing (Deming, 2015)
The importance of teamwork is underscored by two widely-cited laboratory studies (Engel, Woolley, Jing, Chabris, & Malone, 2014; Woolley, Chabris, Pentland, Hashmi, & Malone, 2010). This research established that groups have a measurable ‘collective intelligence’ that is only weakly associated with the individual ability of team members. In contrast, collective intelligence is strongly associated with the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET) an instrument that assesses whether people are adept at recognizing the emotions of others (Baron‐Cohen, Wheelwright, Hill, Raste, & Plumb, 2001). These associations suggest that how well a team performs may be a function of whether or not people are 'Teamplayers', i.e. people who work well with others.
While these two strands of research both suggest that individual’s interpersonal skills are important to labor-market outcomes, scholars are yet to establish a clear causal link between measures of interpersonal skill and team performance. Such a causal link is most easily be demonstrated in a lab setting. Our experiment aims to build on the findings of Woolley et al. (2010) and Engel et al. (2014) by randomly assigning individuals to multiple groups. In doing so, we will answer two core questions. First, do some individuals have substantial impacts (positive or negative) on a group’s collective intelligence? If so, are these impacts associated with existing measures of social skills – such as the RMET?