Study Shows That Anxiety About Meetings Can Lower Intelligence

People who spend much of their days in meetings have something to worry besides boredom, according to a study released by the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory and Computational Psychiatry Unit at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute. Its results show that meetings can actually make attendees dumber.

In examining the social dynamics of work-related meetings, researchers found that listening to a presentation from a coworker who seems smarter can make a person feel less intelligent. More than that, however, it can affect that person's brain's ability to correctly process information. The reason, it appears, has to do with performance anxiety getting in the way.

Volunteers were given IQ tests prior to the experiment, averaging around 126 (a surprisingly high number). They were then subjected to MRI scans during participation in group work activities. A second IQ test was administered and each participant was given feedback on how their own performance measured up to that of the others.

The MRI results showed that being given constant reminders of where others stood was enough to trigger fear and anxiety reactions in the amygdala area of the brain. The practical result of this was that many participants—despite being more or less evenly matched to their colleagues at the beginning of the study—scored significantly lower on the second test. The fear reactions were interfering with each person's ability to appropriately access and express their intelligence.

Source: Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute
Photo: Max Pixel

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