Intelligence Study Links Low I.Q. To Prejudice, Racism, Conservatism

Are racists dumb? Do conservatives tend to be less intelligent than liberals? A provocative new study from Brock University in Ontario suggests the answer to both questions may be a qualified yes.

The study, published in Psychological Science, showed that people who score low on I.Q. tests in childhood are more likely to develop prejudiced beliefs and socially conservative politics in adulthood.

I.Q., or intelligence quotient, is a score determined by standardized tests, but whether the tests truly reveal intelligence remains a topic of hot debate among psychologists.

Dr. Gordon Hodson, a professor of psychology at the university and the study’s lead author, said the finding represented evidence of a vicious cycle: People of low intelligence gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies, which stress resistance to change and, in turn, prejudice, he told LiveScience.

Why might less intelligent people be drawn to conservative ideologies? Because such ideologies feature “structure and order” that make it easier to comprehend a complicated world, Dodson said. “Unfortunately, many of these features can also contribute to prejudice,” he added.

Dr. Brian Nosek, a University of Virginia psychologist, echoed those sentiments.

“Reality is complicated and messy,” he told The Huffington Post in an email. “Ideologies get rid of the messiness and impose a simpler solution. So, it may not be surprising that people with less cognitive capacity will be attracted to simplifying ideologies.”

But Nosek said less intelligent types might be attracted to liberal “simplifying ideologies” as well as conservative ones.

In any case, the study has taken the Internet by storm, with some outspoken liberals saying that it validates their suspicions about conservatives and conservatives arguing thatthe research has been misinterpreted.

– To the original…

 – I blogged this other story ( Does Your Personality Influence Who You Vote For?) some time ago and it seems related…

– And this one (Brains of liberals, conservatives may work differently, study finds) as well!   Damn, look out, Bubbas!  We may be onto something here…



2 Responses to “Intelligence Study Links Low I.Q. To Prejudice, Racism, Conservatism”

  1. M says:


    Did you read all of this? Not much science to this:

    “Hodson and Busseri’s explanation of their findings is reasonable, Nosek said, but it is correlational. That means the researchers didn’t conclusively prove that the low intelligence caused the later prejudice. To do that, you’d have to somehow randomly assign otherwise identical people to be smart or dumb, liberal or conservative. Those sorts of studies obviously aren’t possible.

    The researchers controlled for factors such as education and socioeconomic status, making their case stronger, Nosek said. But there are other possible explanations that fit the data. For example, Nosek said, a study of left-wing liberals with stereotypically naïve views like “every kid is a genius in his or her own way,” might find that people who hold these attitudes are also less bright. In other words, it might not be a particular ideology that is linked to stupidity, but extremist views in general.

    “My speculation is that it’s not as simple as their model presents it,” Nosek said. “I think that lower cognitive capacity can lead to multiple simple ways to represent the world, and one of those can be embodied in a right-wing ideology where ‘People I don’t know are threats’ and ‘The world is a dangerous place’. … Another simple way would be to just assume everybody is wonderful.”

    So, like the old Wendys commercial, “where’s the beef”?

  2. Dennis says:

    Well, it is a complex issue and there’s no way we’re going to get a clear ‘proof’ of what’s being suggested. But, it has seemed intuitively true to me for a long time that the ‘Bubbas’ seem to mostly correlate with the religious fringe element (though a friend of mine suggested (quite appropriately, I think) that such religious groups are often led by individuals who are quite bright). And, until the right-wing took over the news media (think Rupert Murdock), that most reporters were liberal progressives; a fact which the conservative right complained about vociferously until they reasoned out how to subvert the entire media. Now all we have left between us and complete news control is the Internet and the Net Neutrality battles are just shaping up.

    Truth is, my friend, I think if you and I talked long enough, we’d discover we are not that far apart in our belief systems. You are far too bright to believe is a lot of the right’s crap and I am too wary to believe in all the left’s stuff. For instance, I believe in Capital Punishment and I detest a lot of what passes for Nanny-State stuff.

    But I think most of these squabbles are about how the existing governments spend our tax monies rather that about what the primary goals of governments should be. If they had a clear set of goals, then how the money would be spent should follow logically.

    So, should governments primarily exist to create the best playground for corporate competition or should they primarily exist to maximize the quality of life for all their citizens?