A brand new study gives some pretty convincing evidence, using some indisputably fatigued individuals, that working in teams can counter the detrimental effects of fatigue. It’s not news to you that tired drivers are dangerous, that tired surgeons are not ideal, and that tired pilots are to be avoided. So what is the solution when you have to make the road trip home from Las Vegas after two hours of sleep? Read on.
Army cadets, away for weekend training, were split into groups of individuals and teams and asked to solve logistical problems, pre-weekend training or post (meaning sleepless nights of watch-duty and intense drills). The researchers were interested in whether fatigue affects Einstellung (inflexible thinking). The series of problems the cadets were asked to solve increased in difficulty so that the same solution was applicable for the more difficult problems, but simpler solutions were available. Would the teams of fatigued cadets be more cognitively flexible to find the “best” solution than fatigued individuals? You guessed it, the fatigued teams solved the problems using the best solution more than the fatigued individuals. This phenomenon can be explained through the group monitoring hypothesis: in which team members holding each other accountable improves the team’s performance.
So this exciting research can make you feel good when surrounded by classmates, desperately trying to finish your master’s project, that their very presence on your sportspych “team” will help keep you awake and striving for the best project you can make.
On a more applicable note, when attempting that late night road trip, pack your car full of buddies who are interested in your same goals (getting home alive) and who will hold each other accountable for the success of the journey, and breathe easy, you’re doing way better than if you attempt the trip alone.