Old Curmudgeons Are Smarter

|

A new psychological study reported by researchers Thomas Baker of York University and Jacqueline Bichsel of Pennsylvania State University compared the cognitive capacities of older and younger adults. Diagreeableness and intelligence are positively correlated in older adults according to the press release describing the findings:

In the cognitively superior older group, who outperformed both the cognitively comparable older adults and the younger adults on every ability tested, "agreeableness was found to have a contrary relationship with general knowledge suggesting that a disagreeable nature may go hand in hand with better vocabulary and knowledge retention in older age," said Baker. This result supports previous research that suggests that those who are highly intelligent may be more aloof and independent.

ScienceDaily publishes the complete press release of the study here.

NEXT: Struggling To Survive After Katrina

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I always figured it was because the smarter you are, the more likely you are to notice how messed up the rest of the world is.

  2. This result supports previous research that suggests that those who are highly intelligent may be more aloof and independent.

    See, it’s not that I’m an arrogant asshole! It’s just that I’m so much smarter than everyone else!

    Jennifer-I agree with your comment.

  3. Damned kids, get off my lawn!

  4. Great, so now we science encouraging the elitists among us.

  5. The disagreeable, but dumb, may get their Darwin Awards before they reach the “older adult” category.

    Kevin
    (planning on being an Insufferable Immortal)

  6. I’m clipping this and taking it to job interviews (I’m a software engineer, a field where the presumption is against anyone of my age).

  7. Great, so now we science encouraging the elitists among us.

    Well, since science involves careful observation of the world we live in, and since carful observation of humans indicates that many are very dumb indeed, it really makes sense to say that science encourages elitism.

  8. disagreeable nature may go hand in hand with better vocabulary and knowledge retention in older age

    So smarter people are better adapted to hold a grudge and to express their disdain for the inferiors they must deal with on a daily basis.

  9. Bill O’Reilly is disagreeable. Study proven incorrect. Next?

  10. And I always liked the “don’t worry, be happy” song.

  11. Where do old cranky blondes fit into the study?

  12. Hemingway: “Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.”

  13. My Grandfather was a smart old curmudgeon, but not without a sense of humor.

    One day my Grandmother called him a conceited SOB.

    He responded, “I am not conceited. A conceited person is someone who thinks he’s something he’s not. And I’m everything I think I am.”

    She threw a book at him.

  14. What Jennifer said.

    Nerds spend the first third of their lives trying to figure out how to fix what keeps them from fitting in with the rest of the world.

    Then they figure out that they aren’t the ones that are messed up and spend the next third of their lives trying to fix the world so they’ll fit in.

    Finally they figure out that the world isn’t going to change, so they tell everyone to take a flying leap and quit trying to fit in.

  15. My dear late mother stoppped giving dad his alzheimers medication because it made him an insufferable asshole. Come to think of it, she was pretty bitter too. My reward will hopefully be a long period of alienating family and friends.

  16. General agreeableness deprives one of critical thinking abilities, arguably one of the most crucial qualities of a smart person.

  17. “Kevin
    (planning on being an Insufferable Immortal)”

    “Bill O’Reilly is disagreeable. Study proven incorrect. ”

    “See, it’s not that I’m an arrogant asshole! It’s just that I’m so much smarter than everyone else!”

    Sorry, but that correlation only holds for those already cognitively superior… disagreeability does not endow you with cognitive superiority, though cognitive superiority may make you disagreeable.

    Pedantic remark, drink.

  18. Great, I’m gonna be a grumpy old man some day.

  19. I always knew Ruthless was smart!

  20. And Pat Buchanan must be a genius!

  21. Gee, you think a study of intelligent curmudgeons is likely to generate interest among libertarians?

    Eric V,

    I once lived with a right wing Catholic who was studying for the PhD from Catholic Univeristy. He made a remark about people having their perceptions clouded by ideology. I asked him, what about your ideology?

    “I don’t have an ideology. I have a philosophy.”

    “Uh, what’s the difference?”

    “Mine is correct.”

  22. I can’t wait until I turn 60 so I can graduate from asshole to curmudgeon.

  23. This story provides an interesting counterpoint to all the stories about how our cognitive abilities decline as we age.

    A personal observation: at 63, I’m way better at analyzing and solving problems that I was at, say, 23. And I’m still getting better at it. The difference is not small. It’s actually rather dramatic.

  24. Contrarian? Obstinate? Iconoclast? Well in the old country it wouldn’t be allowed. Back then and there everyone had the good sense to think alike. That way everyone stays equal and well adjusted.

    Starstream880

  25. I wonder what Statler and Waldorf, those two elderly muppets in the balcony, would say about this.

  26. I think what you’d find if you dug a little further than mere correlation is that those with low to moderate IQs tend to be either happy & content or royally screwed up.

    The screw ups die off in car accidents, or smoke or drink themselves to death, or get in one too many bar fights and, thus, only the contented dumb survive.

    For smarter people, they tend to be too risk averse to die off, so even the unhappy amongst them will live a long life.

    Also, everybody I know with an IQ over 145 is incredibly happy, so I don’t think we’re looking at a linear correlation here. At some point you get smart enough to realize you shouldn’t waste your life being unhappy.

  27. This kind of reminded me of my favorite Demotivator at Despair.com:

    Pretension:
    The downside of being better than everyone else is that people tend to presume you’re pretentious.

  28. “I always knew Ruthless was smart!”

    kwais, laddie,
    I’ve just written you into me will. With what you’re making as a mercenary, you’ll be able to assume part of my debt upon my demise, eh wot?

    “And Pat Buchanan must be a genius!”

    thedifferentphil,
    Pat Buchanan is a genius.
    If you weren’t so young and so “gellin'” you would be able to handle that.

    (I put a pinch of gravel into each shoe before setting out each morning on my long walk to work.)

  29. What Larry A said.

    Also, everybody I know with an IQ over 145 is incredibly happy, so I don’t think we’re looking at a linear correlation here. At some point you get smart enough to realize you shouldn’t waste your life being unhappy.

    Well, that’s one theory. The problem with it is, the smarter you get, the more you realize how large the obstacles are that prevent you from being happy.

  30. Old age and treachery defeats youth and skill.

  31. “This result supports previous research that suggests that those who are highly intelligent may be more aloof and independent.”

    “Bill O’Reilly is disagreeable. Study proven incorrect.”
    “I always knew Ruthless was smart!”
    “And Pat Buchanan must be a genius!”

    Just because high intelligence may lead to independence does not imply the inverse: that the aloof and independent are highly intelligent. Either the people making the statements above are trying to be funny, or they’re not as smart as they think they are and don’t understand the premise. Am I being the curmudgeon here?

    For the record, I’ve been smart for a long time, and I’m just starting to get cranky.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.