A study published by Psychological Science is sure to stir controversy as it links lower IQ levels with greater prejudice and social conservatism.
Live Science brought attention to the study, conducted by Gordon Hodson and Michael A. Busseri of Brock University in Ontario, which found “that lower general intelligence in childhood predicts greater racism in adulthood” in children in the United Kingdom.
The study conducted in the UK followed up on children whose intelligence had been measured in 1958 and 1970, assessing their prejudice and socially conservative views at the age of 30, according to Jezebel, which also picked up the story.
The study measured conservative attitudes by seeing how much people agreed with statements such as, “Schools should teach children to obey authority” and measured racism with statements like, “I wouldn't mind working with people from other races.”
A secondary study conducted in the United States by the research team revealed a similar link, showing that people with a poorer handle on abstract reasoning tended to express more homophobic thoughts, despite differences in their levels of education or socioeconomic backgrounds.
Hodson wrote in an email to Live Science, “Prejudice is extremely complex and multifaceted, making it critical that any factors contributing to bias are uncovered and understood.”
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Hodson pointed out that the research should not suggest all conservatives are dumb, saying, “There are multiple examples of very bright conservatives and not-so-bright liberals, and many examples of very principled conservatives and very intolerant liberals.”
The researchers put forth the possibility that people who “have trouble grasping the complexity of the world” tend towards conservatism and prejudice in their quest for structure in a chaotic and nuanced world. Jezebel said, “Religion, authoritarianism, and isolationism appeal to a desire for order in a world that offers few absolutes.”
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In The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf listed this as the first indication of American conservatism:
An aversion to rapid change; a belief that tradition and prevailing social norms often contain within them handed down wisdom; and mistrust of attempts to remake society so that it conforms to an abstract account of what would be just or efficient.