New Study: Low I.Q. Linked To Prejudice, Racism, Conservatism

Brock University in Ontario suggests new study which gives answer such questions as ‘Are racists dumb?’ and ‘Do conservatives tend to be less intelligent than liberals?’

Intelligence quotient (IQ) is a score determined by standardized tests, but the validity of these tests remains a topic of hot debate among psychologists for years. Photo: Caitlinator/Flickr

According to the study, published in Psychological Science, the people who have low I.Q. in childhood are more likely to develop prejudiced beliefs and socially conservative politics in adulthood, says the Huff Post.

Prejudice is extremely complex and multifaceted, making it critical that any factors contributing to bias are uncovered and understood,” said Dr. Gordon Hodson, a professor of psychology at the university and the study’s lead author.

The findings include three hot-button topics. “They’ve pulled off the trifecta of controversial topics,” said Brian Nosek, a social and cognitive psychologist at the University of Virginia who was not involved in the study.

“When one selects intelligence, political ideology and racism and looks at any of the relationships between those three variables, it’s bound to upset somebody.”

He added: “Reality is complicated and messy,” he said. “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.”

Earlier studies had connected low levels of education with higher levels of prejudice, so examining intelligence is quite a logical next step.

The researchers paid attention to two studies of citizens in the United Kingdom, one that has followed babies since their births in March 1958, and another that did the same for babies born in April 1970.

The children in the studies had their intelligence assessed at age 10 or 11; as adults ages 30 or 33, their levels of social conservatism and racism were measured.

Social conservatives were stated as people who agreed with a laundry list of statements such as “Family life suffers if mum is working full-time,” and “Schools should teach children to obey authority.”

According to Live Science, attitudes toward other races were captured by measuring agreement with statements such as “I wouldn’t mind working with people from other races.” No wonder, low intelligence in childhood provides racism in adulthood.

But the point that explained the bounds between these two variables was political: When researchers included social conservatism in the analysis, those ideologies accounted for much of the link between brains and bias.

It was also found that people who had lower cognitive abilities also had less contact with people of other races. “This finding is consistent with recent research demonstrating that intergroup contact is mentally challenging and cognitively draining, and consistent with findings that contact reduces prejudice,” said Hodson.

Nosek added: “We can say definitively men are taller than women on average,” he said. “But you can’t say if you take a random man and you take a random woman that the man is going to be taller. There’s plenty of overlap.”

That means that strict right-wing ideology might appeal to those who have trouble grasping the complexity of the world. “Socially conservative ideologies tend to offer structure and order,” Hodson said. “Unfortunately, many of these features can also contribute to prejudice.”

In one more study in the United States, Hodson and Busseri examined 254 people with the same level of education but different amounts of ability in abstract reasoning. The research showed what applies to racism may also apply to homophobia.

People who had poorer at abstract reasoning were more likely to exhibit prejudice against gays. As in the U.K. citizens, a lack of contact with gays and more acceptance of right-wing authoritarianism explained the link.

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