Human Resources News & Insights

At last! Scientific proof that meetings make you dumber

Finally, there’s confirmation of what you’ve suspected all along: Meetings can make you stupid.

It’s so, according to a study from the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.

Linda Carroll, writing on, quotes study co-author Read Montague: “You may joke about how committee meetings make you feel brain dead, but our findings suggest that they may make you act brain dead as well.”

Montague says there’s a special social dynamic that occurs in meetings — it not only makes us feel stupid, it makes us act that way.

And the researchers have the brain scans to prove it. Here’s how Carroll describes the study protocol:

The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to watch people’s brains as they worked in a group setting.

At the beginning of the study, 70 college-student volunteers took an IQ test. The group of students turned out to have fairly high IQs, averaging around 126. Next, the students were divided into groups of five, with two randomly selected from each group to be scanned in the MRI.

The study volunteers were then given a second IQ test (two from each group in the MRI during testing), but this time they were given feedback on how they stacked up against the rest of their group each time they answered a question.

Although study volunteers were well matched to others in their groups in terms of initial IQ scores, many had scores that dropped dramatically when they were constantly getting feedback on where they stood compared to the others.

The scans told the story: Simply being reminded of how others in the group were faring was enough to fire up parts of the brain involved in fear, anxiety and emotional response, the researchers said.

Don’t we all feel better now? We’re not the only ones who suspected that our IQs were dropping every minute we sat through that last staff meeting.


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