Global policy makers increasingly adopt subjective wellbeing as a framework within which to measure and address human development challenges, including policies to mitigate consequential societal problems. In this review, we take a systems-level perspective to assemble evidence from studies of wellbeing, of collective intelligence, and of metacognition and argue for a virtuous cycle for health promotion in which the increased collective intelligence of groups: (1) enhances the ability of such groups to address consequential societal problems; (2) promotes the wellbeing of societies and the individual wellbeing of people within groups; and, finally, (3) enables prosocial actions that further promote collective problem-solving and global wellbeing. Notably, evidence demonstrates that effective collaboration and teamwork largely depend on social skills for metacognitive awareness—the capacity to evaluate and control our own mental processes in the service of social problem-solving. Yet, despite their importance, metacognitive skills may not be well-captured by measures of general intelligence. These skills have instead been the focus of decades of research in the psychology of human judgment and decision-making. This literature provides well-validated tests of metacognitive awareness and demonstrates that the capacity to use analysis and deliberation to evaluate intuitive responses is an important source of individual differences in decision-making. Research in network neuroscience further elucidates the topology and dynamics of brain networks that enable metacognitive awareness, providing key targets for intervention. As such, we further discuss emerging scientific interventions to enhance metacognitive skills (e.g., based on mindfulness meditation, and physical activity and aerobic fitness), and how such interventions may catalyze the virtuous cycle to improve collective intelligence, societal problem-solving, and global wellbeing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number54
JournalJournal of Intelligence
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Collective intelligence
  • Metacognition
  • Wellbeing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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