The Surprising Link Between Prejudiced Attitudes And IQ

High intelligence is linked to holding certain attitudes, psychological research finds.

High intelligence is linked to holding certain attitudes, psychological research finds.

More intelligent people are less likely to be prejudiced against same-sex couples, research finds.

People of lower intelligence, though, are more likely to hold homophobic attitudes.

The conclusions come from an Australian study of 11,654 people who were given intelligence tests.

All were asked if they agreed with this statement:

“Homosexual couples should have the same rights as heterosexual couples do.”

Less intelligent people were more likely to be prejudiced on LGBT issues, the results showed.

People with low scores on the verbal ability test were particularly likely to be prejudiced.

Higher levels of education were, however, consistently linked to being less prejudiced.

Dr Francisco Perales, the study’s author, writes:

“Altogether, the findings provide clear evidence that cognitive ability is an important precursor of prejudice against same-sex couples.”

Dr Perales explained that studies have generally found that prejudice is more prevalent among people of low intelligence:

“Research conducted chiefly in the US, Canada and Western Europe reports correlations between low cognitive ability and support of prejudicial or non-egalitarian attitudes towards certain social groups (including ethnic minorities, migrants, women and people with AIDS), as well as related constructs, such as conservatism, ethnocentrism, authoritarianism,
and dogmatism.”

High IQ prejudice

Some psychologists, though, think this is not the whole story about the link between intelligence and prejudice.

A survey of 5,914  people in the US has tested prejudice against 24 different groups.

It found that both people of high and low intelligence are prejudiced — just against different groups.

People of higher intelligence showed prejudice towards groups perceived as conservative and conventional.

These included the military, Christians and big business.

Dr Mark Brandt, the study’s first author, explained:

“Whereas prior work by others found that people with low cognitive ability express more prejudice, we found that this is limited to only some target groups.

For other target groups the relationship was in the opposite direction.

For these groups, people with high levels of cognitive ability expressed more prejudice.

So, cognitive ability also does not seem to make people immune to expressing prejudice.”

The rather depressing conclusion is that most people are prejudiced against those they don’t agree with.

The studies were was published in the journals Intelligence and Social Psychological and Personality Science (Brandt & Crawford, 2016; Perales, 2018).


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This site is all about scientific research into how the mind works.

It’s mostly written by psychologist and author, Dr Jeremy Dean.

I try to dig up fascinating studies that tell us something about what it means to be human.

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Author: Jeremy Dean

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, 2013) and several ebooks.