Learning transfer in small group coordination


This work tests the adaptation of groups from two generalizations of the stag hunt to a difficult third version, the notorious weakest-link game. The two training conditions either encouraged or discouraged the development of stable subgroups. Theories of modularization predict that stable subgroups will facilitate coordination in larger groups by helping them scale up. However, internal structure may also cause “overfitting,” or adaptation to only spurious features of training. In this experiment, experience with internal structure prevented coordination at larger scales, while experience in environments that discourage internal structure led to performance at least as high as in the control environments. I offer the analogy from individual learning transfer, that distracting details from superficially-similar domains may preclude transfer. This work has implications for the development and adaptability of coordinating groups. In particular, it demonstrates that coordination is not a monolith, and experience with one sense may impair performance under others.

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