Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Silence is Golden:  Communication Costs and Team Problem Solving


Numerous studies have compared the performance of individuals and teams at solving intellective problems.  The ubiquitous finding in the economics literature is that teams out-perform individuals.  This result is intuitively appealing, as teams can benefit from sharing insights.  We analyze experiments comparing the performance of teams and individuals at solving a series of challenging logic puzzles.  Contrary to the existing literature, individuals meet or exceed the performance of teams on all measures.  If we impose a small cost of communication on teams, the performance of teams improves to closely resemble the performance of individuals.  Underlying these results is a definite negative relationship between frequency of communication and team performance.  We also document a strong gender effect.  Teams with more women perform considerably better even though men slightly outperform women when solving the puzzles individually.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View