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Is a person's IQ related to their political ideology?

Is a person's IQ related to their political ideology?

May 6, 2021

The study of intelligence is one of the areas that more clashes of points of view have generated both in psychology and social sciences in general.

Defining what intelligence is in itself a battlefield , and if in addition it is tried to relate the concept of intellectual quotient with the political ideology of each person, the controversy is served. The reason is clear: a high IQ is a trait that all advocates of political positions want to associate with their cause, because intelligence is not simply a personal characteristic, but also carries a strong moral value: to be intelligent is good.

But, beyond all biased opinions and value judgments, there are some investigations that, although they have limitations and could be victims of certain biases in their design, They try to address the issue of the relationship between CI and political ideology in the least subjective way possible. So ... are the people on the left more intelligent? Centos, maybe? Let's see what has been found through these studies.


The left, the rights and their relationship with the CI

In general, if we had to say if the people of the left or the right are more intelligent and we only had to give an answer without going into details, we would have to admit that there are more studies that link higher IQ with left ideologies what studies do the same with right-wing positions. However, within this simplistic view of the results obtained through research there are several things that must be taken into account.

The first is that there are many studies that have reached contradictory results. There are two possible reasons that explain this. The first is that classifying political ideologies into "left and right" is a way of simplifying reality too much , and the second is that the culture of each country and region seems to play a very important role in the way in which intelligence and ideology are related. Next we will see what this means.


What does it mean to be conservative?

One of the best-known theories when explaining how the IQ and political positioning interact is what distinguishes between progressives Y conservatives.

According to Lazar Stankov, for example, conservative people are characterized by a certain cognitive rigidity : they value very positively the constant follow-up of norms and respect for authority, orthodoxy traditions when interpreting texts. In short, they endorse a framework of rules that is already given by certain authorities or pressure groups.

This way of following rules can be seen as the antithesis of the concept of intelligence, which is related to the ability to find creative ways of behaving in novel situations through a good dose of mental agility, for which Stankov and other researchers have proposed that people with less intelligence are more seduced by conservative political positions. Further, Stankov himself came to find correlations between a low IQ and a high score in conservatism , for which this theory was reinforced.


However... Does not this relationship between ideology and intelligence depend on the cultural context of each country? Currently, information is available from studies that indicate the way in which the history of a country or region affects the way in which the dominant ideology "by default" is more situated to the right or to the left. In this way, while in Brazil there is a strong attachment to ideological centralism because of the country's historical instability, in Russia conservatism is more related to Stalin's orthodox communism, while in the US the conservative character is related to anti-communism and the defense of military interventions outside the country.

The nuances within the ideologies

Another aspect to take into account when looking at how IQ and ideology are related is the following question: can we say that there is only one left and one right? There are several studies that show that within the groups of people identified as conservative or progressive there are details that show to what extent these two categories have very different subgroups. For example, you can be liberal economically and conservative socially . This is what happens, for example, in people attached to right-wing positions related to the rejection of non-Western ways of life and to the values ​​of the left that in turn defend the existence of the free circulation of money.

At the same time, people who see themselves as defenders of school policies can be seen as members of a third group with their own characteristics that distinguish them from people with extreme ideologies. In this sense, there are both studies that relate a high IQ with a moderate center position and others that find the opposite phenomenon: a high intelligence associated with people with more radical positions, both on the right and the left. Rindermann and his team of researchers found the first type of result, while Kemmelmeier found the second.

Why does this happen? There are many possible factors that can explain this difference, but one of them possibly has to do with the characteristics of the groups of people studied in each of these studies.

Sophisticated political tastes

While Rindermann, who saw a relationship between high IQ and moderate ideology, studied people with an average level of intelligence, Kemmelmeier studied people with higher IQ than normal .

This would suggest that people endowed with an intellectual level within normality would be more seduced by the moderate, while the smarter ones would be more likely to explore more sophisticated and far away from the socially established, finding ways in which they can. seduce. It is a probable explanation, since also a relationship has been found between a high IQ and a greater tendency to affirm that there are well-defined political positions , whereas people without a defined political ideology tend to get lower intelligence scores.

In conclusion

Although very interesting results have been obtained throughout several investigations, conclusive results have not yet been obtained that allow us to affirm with a good degree of certainty that people of a certain political ideology are more intelligent.

The cultural factors and the nuances within the political specters have an importance that makes it difficult to find universal tendencies.

Bibliographic references:

  • Kemmelmeier, M. (2008). Is there a relationship between political orientation and cognitive ability? A test of three hypotheses in two studies. Personality and Individual Differences, 45 (8), pp. 767-772.
  • Rindermann, H., Flores-Mendoza, C., & Woodley, M. A. (2012). Political orientations, intelligence and education. Intelligence, 40 (2), pp. 217-225.
  • Stankov, L. (2009). Conservatism and cognitive ability. Intelligence, 37 (3), pp. 294-304.

Highest I.Q. Political and Economic Beliefs (May 2021).


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