Not all cognitive collaborations are equally effective. We tested whether friendship and communication influenced collaborative efficiency by randomly assigning participants to complete a cognitive task with a friend or non-friend, while visible to their partner or separated by a partition. Collaborative efficiency was indexed by comparing each pair’s performance to an optimal individual performance model of the same two people. The outcome was a strong interaction between friendship and partner visibility. Friends collaborated more efficiently than non-friends when visible to one another, but a partition that prevented pair members from seeing one another reduced the collaborative efficiency of friends and non-friends to a similar lower level. Secondary measures suggested that verbal communication differences, but not psychophysiological arousal, contributed to these effects. Analysis of covariance indicated that females contributed more than males to overall levels of collaboration, but that the interaction of friendship and visibility was independent of that effect. These findings highlight the critical role of partner visibility in the collaborative success of friends.
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