Racism & Conservatism Linked to Lower IQ

It is no secret that racists tend to be less educated than non-racists, although there are some notable exceptions. Trump supporters, for example, tend to be lesser-educated whites, and it is difficult to argue that Donald Trump does not appeal to white racist instincts.

A study published in Psychological Science reveals that racist and social conservatives also tend to have lower IQs than the population in general. In other words, the lower a person’s cognitive ability, the more likely that person is to be prejudiced and to harbor racist and socially conservative opinions.

 The study was conducted in the United Kingdom and “found that lower general intelligence in childhood predicts greater racism in adulthood, and this effect was largely mediated via conservative ideology.” A related study conducted in the USA found that low IQs had “a predictive effect of poor abstract-reasoning skills on antihomosexual prejudice, a relation partially mediated by both authoritarianism and low levels of intergroup contact.” Translated into simpler language, those who scored lower on intelligence tests in childhood had a propensity to develop prejudices as adults against people who were not like them. They also tended to be more attracted to authoritarian figures like Donald Trump.

Of course, whether or not IQ is a genuine measure of intelligence is open for debate. My IQ tests in the upper one percent of the US population, and yet I am often in awe at the mental power of people who strike me as being much more intelligent than I am. I think my IQ score grossly overstates my actual intelligence.

The theory behind the link between low IQ and prejudice is that prejudice simplifies thinking to bring it within reach of the cognitively-deficient brain. It is much easier to understand the world if a person divides it into “us” versus “them.” Dealing with the true complexities of human behavior requires more brain power.

Of course, we should be careful about classifying all conservatives as dumb. Basically the studies deal with people who have conservative ideas of group identity, but there are other types of conservatism. If I tend to identify with people of my skin color, educational level, and political opinions, my cognitive abilities may be below average. If I am intellectually curious and interested in other cultures, languages, and well-reasoned political views, my brain has to work at a higher level.

What about economic conservatives? I could find no study that showed a link between intelligence and economic ideology, except that less intelligent people are more likely to blindly to follow such an ideology and be less open to opposing theories. Obviously, some conservative economists are highly intelligent. On the other hand, very few racists come across as intelligent.

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