Three heads are better than one: cooperative learning brains wire together when a consensus is reached.Pan, Cheng, Hu (2022) Three heads are better than one: cooperative learning brains wire together when a consensus is reached. Cereb Cortex ()
Theories of human learning converge on the view that individuals working together learn better than do those working independently. Little is known, however, about the neural mechanisms of learning through cooperation. We addressed this research gap by leveraging functional near-infrared spectroscopy to record the brain activity of triad members in a group simultaneously. Triads were instructed to analyze an ancient Chinese poem either cooperatively or independently. Four main findings emerged. First, we observed significant within-group neural synchronization (GNS) in the left superior temporal cortex, supramarginal gyrus, and postcentral gyrus during cooperative learning compared with independent learning. Second, the enhancement of GNS in triads was amplified when a consensus was reached (vs. elaboration or argument) during cooperative learning. Third, GNS was predictive of learning outcome at an early stage (156-170 s after learning was initiated). Fourth, social factors such as social closeness (e.g. how much learners liked one other) were reflected in GNS and co-varied with learning engagement. These results provide neuroscientific support for Piaget's theory of cognitive development and favor the notion that successful learning through cooperation involves dynamic consensus-building, which is captured in neural patterns shared across learners in a group.© The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.