More intelligent people tend to follow rules and be less aggressive and better behaved, research finds.
People with higher IQs are also less likely to cheat and steal.
Young people with lower IQs, though, are more likely to take part in antisocial behaviour, such as harassing or alarming others.
Boys who are antisocial have an average IQ 10 points lower than their more social counterparts.
For antisocial girls, the IQ gap is 5 points lower than their more social peers.
The conclusions come from a study of more than 1,000 young people in the UK.
All were given tests of IQ and externalising behaviour.
For psychologists, externalising behaviour refers to physical aggression, flouting rules, stealing and cheating.
The results showed that fewer externalising behaviours were linked to higher IQ.
In contrast, those with lower IQs were at greater risk of antisocial behaviour.
The study’s authors write:
“Low IQ is a consistent risk factor for emergence and continuity of antisocial behavior across the life course in both prospective and cross-sectional studies, even when other relevant risk factors are statistically controlled.”
Genetic factors are likely important in the link, as well as situational factors, the authors write:
“…cognitive deficits might promote antisocial behavior if children with low IQs misunderstand rules, find it too difficult to negotiate conflict with words, find school frustrating, or become tracked with antisocial peers.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology (Koenen et al., 2008).