Teamwork can help tired people avoid making poor decisions, a new study indicates. Pilots, doctors and others in demanding professions can make dangerous errors when they're weary. But, fatigued people who work as a team have better problem-solving skills than those who work alone, British researchers report.
They asked 171 army officer cadets, aged 18 to 24, at a weekend training exercise to solve a series of maths problems. Some were tested before they began the training session and were rested, while others did the math problems at the end of the weekend when they were exhausted.
Individual cadets who were fatigued did far worse on the tests than those who were rested. However, teams of exhausted cadets did just as well as teams of rested cadets.
The study appears online in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied.
Team work better for tired people
"Teams appear to be more highly motivated to perform well, and team members can compare solutions to reach the best decision when they are fatigued. This appears to allow teams to avoid the inflexible thinking experienced by fatigued individuals," study author Daniel Frings, a senior lecturer in social psychology at London South Bank University, said.
In situations where fatigue is a concern, decisions should be made by teams rather than individuals if possible, the study concluded.
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety has more about fatigue.
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