Does Stupidity Cause Conservatism?


You need an explanation?

A new study in the journal Psychological Science by two Canadian researchers suggests that the answer is yes. And worse yet it causes racism and homophobia too. The abstract from the article, "Bright Minds and Dark Attitudes: Lower Cognitive Ability Predicts Greater Prejudice Through Right-Wing Ideology and Low Intergroup Contact." reports:

Despite their important implications for interpersonal behaviors and relations, cognitive abilities have been largely ignored as explanations of prejudice. We proposed and tested mediation models in which lower cognitive ability predicts greater prejudice, an effect mediated through the endorsement of right-wing ideologies (social conservatism, right-wing authoritarianism) and low levels of contact with out-groups. In an analysis of two large-scale, nationally representative United Kingdom data sets (N = 15,874), we found that lower general intelligence (g) in childhood predicts greater racism in adulthood, and this effect was largely mediated via conservative ideology. A secondary analysis of a U.S. data set confirmed a predictive effect of poor abstract-reasoning skills on antihomosexual prejudice, a relation partially mediated by both authoritarianism and low levels of intergroup contact. All analyses controlled for education and socioeconomic status. Our results suggest that cognitive abilities play a critical, albeit underappreciated, role in prejudice. Consequently, we recommend a heightened focus on cognitive ability in research on prejudice and a better integration of cognitive ability into prejudice models.

IQ actually exists? I thought IQ was a fiction imposed by the patriarchy as yet another way to exclude women and minorities. Who knew?

That being said, it is probably true that less intelligent people are more fearful people which likely inclines them toward sticking with what they know and avoiding social, economic, and technological novelty. Interestingly, the Huffington Post does note:

"Reality is complicated and messy," [University of Virginia psychologist Brian Nosek] told The Huffington Post in an email. "Ideologies get rid of the messiness and impose a simpler solution. So, it may not be surprising that people with less cognitive capacity will be attracted to simplifying ideologies."

But Nosek said less intelligent types might be attracted to liberal "simplifying ideologies" as well as conservative ones.

Simplifying liberal ideologies? You think? Maybe something along the lines of a simplistic ideology based on the belief that "fairness" is the same as "equality"?

In any case, my fellow libertarians need not fret. Research shows that libertarians—out of the major socio-political groups—score highest on "need for cognition" and "openness to new experiences." However, it must be said that many of my fellow libertarians do tend exhibit just a bit of "prejudice" against rigid liberals and conservatives.

For further background, see my 2004 column, Pathologizing Conservatism: Is it an unfortunate evolutionary holdover, or the product of a bad upbringing.

Thanks to Mark Sletten for the tip.