LiveScience: Low IQ & Conservative Beliefs Linked to Prejudice

by , under All categories, Enrique

Comment: Before you jump to any conclusions, the story does not claim that liberals are smart and conservative-minded people lack intelligence. What the findings of the study claim is that low-intelligence adults tend to gravitate towards conservative ideologies. 

Here is a link to another blog entry in February 2011 that showed a correlation between low self-esteem and racism. 

If there is a link between low IQ and prejudice, what would we call a politician, who appears to have a head on his or her shoulder,  but uses racism to get more votes and popularity?  

“Those ideologies, in turn, stress hierarchy and resistance to change, attitudes that can contribute to prejudice,” lead researcher Gordon Hodson wrote in an email to LiveScience. “Prejudice is extremely complex and multifaceted, making it critical that any factors contributing to bias are uncovered and understood.” 

 Here is an important point that should be highlighted from the story: “People with lower cognitive abilities also had less contact with people of other races [in Europe we call them ethnic groups].”

Finding the causes of racism are important because such a social ill is the cause of a lot of hardship and is one of the main culprits behind most if not all wars. Hodson said that many anti-prejudice programs encourage participants to see the world from another group’s view. 

“That mental exercise may be too taxing for people of low IQ,” he said.

__________________

Stephanie Pappas

There’s no gentle way to put it: People who give in to racism and prejudice may simply be dumb, according to a new study that is bound to stir public controversy. The research finds that children with low intelligence are more likely to hold prejudiced attitudes as adults. 

Read whole story.

  1. Mark

    Just for some balance, Brian Nosek, a Virginia University psychology researcher commented on the research thus:

    “My speculation is that it’s not as simple as their model presents it,” Nosek said. “I think that lower cognitive capacity can lead to multiple simple ways to represent the world, and one of those can be embodied in a right-wing ideology where ‘People I don’t know are threats’ and ‘The world is a dangerous place’. … Another simple way would be to just assume everybody is wonderful.”

    Nosek also speculates that research into naive assumptions among left-wingers would also show a correlation with lower intelligence, and that therefore, it is not specifically the right-wing that harbour low intelligence, but rather the extremes. This is speculation on the research rather than a conclusion. And it should not cover over the fact that it is the emphasis on order and hiarachy that seem to lend themselves to prejudiced views.

    Indeed, the study authors themselves think that it is more about having quite simplistic views of the world. Contact with foreign groups has been shown to be cognitively taxing, but it does result in less prejudice. People with lower intelligence had less contact with other ethnic groups. They also stress that prejudice appears to be driven more by emotion than cognition, so trying to change the way people think about ethnic groups is less likely to be affective than changing how they feel. Even asking people of lower intelligence to ‘put themselves in the other person’s shoes’ might be just too difficult cognitively, especially if it threatens a long-held prejudice.

    It seems that the answer is just to encourage more contact. Makes sense. Most of the idiots on here attacking multiculturalism have had very limited contact or only negative contacts with immigrants. Unless they choose to have more contact, they are unlikely to change the way they think.

    I think some people put very little thought into a basic opinion they might have about the world. But once they have found that position, they can put an enormous amount of resources into defending that position, even when those resources, if directed towards looking at their position rather than defending it, would show them that it’s an indefensible position.

    Interesting piece Enrique.

  2. justicedemon

    IQ – political orientation – prejudice

    None of these are properties of an individual that could be discretely measurable in the sense that is necessary for conclusions of the kind drawn in the Hodson study.

    IQ is a notoriously vague construction. Suppose that a committee of art historians were to draw up a list of criteria for assessing the beauty of paintings and then assign a point score of 100 to the average. How would we consider the outcome for any particular painting? Now compare this to our view of the physical dimensions of that painting? Which of these is a scientific property of the painting?

    We measure IQ by assigning certain types of test under controlled conditions, but we then assume that the results of this measurement can be meaningfully applied to predict individual performance more generally. This is roughly similar to assuming that a good chess player will be good at maths or languages and, more crucially, that anyone who is good at maths or languages will be a good chess player. In fact, however, chess is a mind sport, and the ability to play develops through study and practice. A player who has learned to recognise a certain pattern will always solve corresponding types of chess problem more rapidly than a machine that must calculate and assess every variation separately. This does not make the chess player a genius at calculation, any more than David Beckham is a mathematical genius because he can control a volleyed shot at goal before even the fastest supercomputer has begun to tackle the integral calculus that is required to assess the incoming flight of the ball, predict its flight towards the goal, and control the muscle contractions that are involved in correctly executing the volley.

    Political orientation is no less problematic. What was the political orientation of the creators of paleolithic cave paintings? One and the same person may be conservative or radical according to context. Indeed migration often triggers an apparent shift in orientation.

    What is the difference between a prejudice and a working hypothesis? Probably only that we are more willing to abandon the latter when confronted with a counterexample. Strength of conviction is nevertheless held to be a virtue, and there is an importance sense in which the opposite of prejudice is fickleness.

  3. Mark

    JD

    IQ is a notoriously vague construction. Suppose that a committee of art historians were to draw up a list of criteria for assessing the beauty of paintings and then assign a point score of 100 to the average. How would we consider the outcome for any particular painting? Now compare this to our view of the physical dimensions of that painting? Which of these is a scientific property of the painting?

    Your comparison wasn’t particularly relevant in my book. Responses to a painting’s ‘beauty’ are clearly subjective, and asks for a ‘value’. On the other hand, IQ asks people to solve particular kinds of problems to assess the strength of certain skills. There are certainly problems with measuring IQ and the idea of how it relates even to real-world performance, but it is certainly measuring rather more than subjective value judgements, notwithstanding the notorious cultural biases within IQ tests.

    JD, this research grew out of the research observation that strong prejudice seems to be linked to ‘low education’. The research therefore tried to answer the question of whether it was lack of education that produced the prejudice, or something else that produced both ‘lack of education’ and also ‘prejudice’, such as low intelligence. In that sense it was useful.

    What is the difference between a prejudice and a working hypothesis? Probably only that we are more willing to abandon the latter when confronted with a counterexample. Strength of conviction is nevertheless held to be a virtue, and there is an importance sense in which the opposite of prejudice is fickleness.

    These are good points. The authors also point out that structure and order, typically seen as ‘conservative ideals’, also have positive benefits to society. In terms of prejudice, there is still a working hypothesis, but the ‘evidence’ obtained from observations has already been filtered in such a way that it will only strengthen the hypothesis. It’s the ‘filtering’ that seems to be important. The research only looked at ‘overt’ prejudices, which is a serious limitation, because much prejudice is ‘unconscious’, which is consistent with the idea that evidence is unconsciously ‘filtered’.

  4. justicedemon

    Mark

    My point is that IQ is not a scientific property of an individual in the same sense as height, weight or age. The ability to perform well (or badly) in IQ tests can be learned in much the same way as any other rule-governed activity (chess is the prime example), and all such tests are based on a huge assumption of universal relevance that transcends any rules. In other words we seek a kind of “good at games in general” property that is distinct and separate from ability in any particular game. The problem is that this amounts to seeking a property of being good at life itself.

    I have been trying to locate a remark that I recall was made by Bertrand Russell about the nature and relevance of logic in a world that does not largely comprise physical objects exclusively occupying discrete spatial locations. My understanding is that we would not reason as we do if we lived in a world in which most objects behaved like clouds, with vaguer boundaries and the ability to occupy the same location at the same time: to pass through one another if you like. Ratiocinative ability is to this extent almost entirely contingent, and any measure thereof is similarly so. On a more mundane level, what counts as intelligence on a farm in rural Finland in 1900 will be significantly different from what counts as intelligence in London today. In referring to IQ, we seem to be looking for some measurable property that is somehow relevant to both but not in any way contingent on either.

    This is much more profound than any ordinary issue of subjectivity. The example referred to a committee of art historians and assumed that their specialism is not arbitrary.

    We should already have clues to this general problem of defining universal scientifically measurable intelligence in the natural language distinction between intelligence and wisdom, in the observable division of academic attainment by subject area (language graduates who cannot count and science graduates who cannot write well), and in the modern tendency to identify various forms of intelligence in order to explain various types of human success.

  5. Allan

    I wonder what kind of IQ tests they use to measure the intelligence of lab rats or monkeys. How does it then correlate – I mean getting out of a maze and your political voting habits? Maybe you vote for anyone not making you go into the maze?

  6. Mark

    Allan & JD

    They measure the intelligence of lab rats based on what kinds of puzzles the rat can solve in order to find a food reward. Rats have also been shown to have ‘metacognition’. Do a Google to get find research.

    I’m not sure what you mean by ‘scientific property’, JD, though I’m well aware of the arguments on IQ. Height, weight and age all vary through a persons life, and are linked to other variables (such as diet and ageing). Likewise with IQ performance.

    IQ testing may very well be linked to education and other factors that change according to the society or period in which we live. However, I do not see how that makes it any less subject to ‘scientific study’. An easy analogy would be running. We can measure the speed of a runner. Running may well depend on whether the person can be bothered run, whether their life depended on it, whether they had trained for that purpose, whether they followed a good diet. Likewise, someone who has trained to run 100m cannot properly be compared to someone trained to run a marathon. However, the world is full of very specific ‘records’ and ‘measurements’ of human running, and I assume you count these as scientifically valid measurements?

    Another thing to say about IQ tests is that they do measure a kind of cognitive performance. I.e. it requires cognitive work to do IQ tests and it certainly takes cognitive work to improve on an IQ test. Likewise, it takes cognitive work to figure out our own prejudices. It might be that the link between ‘low’ IQ and prejudice is as simple as saying that people cannot be bothered to make the mental effort to think through their prejudices.

    In regard to Bertrand Russell’s comment on living in a world that ‘does not largely comprise physical objects exclusively occupying discrete spatial locations’, I would say that that is exactly the kind of world we live in, i.e. the human mind, where objects of thought and sensory information exist in a single space and time, i.e. in the moment of consciousness. But that’s a philosophical aside.

  7. justicedemon

    Mark

    I’ll wager you that the score on an IQ test will change a lot more than the score on a test of someone’s height when repeated 100 times in a month. However, this was not my point.

    We assume a universality for IQ that is necessarily extrapolated beyond the boundaries of the test of IQ. This is very much like assuming that a chess player will be good at maths due to some postulated underlying universal capacity that somehow determines both skills. The problem is that we have no direct way of measuring or even wholly conceptualising that capacity. Even the most abstract skills in formal logic are simply the ability to play another type of game and not the underlying game-playing capacity itself. This is why a 19th century Finnish farmer in modern London would be considered a simpleton, but a modern Londoner on a 19th century Finnish farm would not fare much better. These are two specific forms of life, but there is no underlying universal living capacity that each individual applies to her own situation.

    Are you ready to accept that your IQ drops when you are placed in very unfamiliar surroundings? Even a secondary characteristic such as “the rate of adapting to changed surroundings” can be developed through training.

    Referring to “cognitive performance” is giving a name to this alleged universal capacity, but it remains a postulated entity that Occam’s razor can readily remove. This is not the case with a property like height, weight or age. A measurement of height is obtained by measuring height, whereas a measurement of IQ is postulated on the basis of performance in some specific game that we deliberately try to make as abstract as possible, but which nevertheless remains a specific game.

    This is probably the wrong forum to debate the reality of mental contents. Suffice it to say that the Cartesian idea of the mind as a place where mental events (“objects”) happen (“exist”) was fairly convincingly refuted in the middle of the last century. In any case, that’s not what I’m driving at here.

  8. Hannu

    Justicedemon its well known fact that black have lower IQ than whites and Enrique thinks IQ important so he says theyre racists.
    I remember how enrique resented anything what has to do with IQ but seems he has changed his mind. Or is this again “ethnopositive existence”?

    • Enrique

      Hannu, did I mention only whites? Racism and hatred is something that affects all of society. However, there is a big difference between the racism of a minority and that of a majority that controls, political and economic power.

      Many times when I debate an issue, the other person says that he is not racist even though I never said he was.

    • Enrique

      –Enrique, your finding explains why 27% of racist crimes is done by non finns.

      Hannu, what is the source, thank you for your claim.

  9. Mark

    JD

    – “We assume a universality for IQ that is necessarily extrapolated beyond the boundaries of the test of IQ.”

    The extrapolation is a statistical operation:

    The g-loading of an intelligence test is the degree to the test score reflects general mental ability, as opposed to specific skills related to the test. Most highly g-loaded tests involve some form of abstract reasoning.

    While it is not universally accepted that the Spearman test is measuring ‘raw intelligence’, the correlations between job performance and educational performance, it does point out that psychologists are well aware that the skills tested in the test are not ‘raw intelligence’.

    In fact, modern research relies more these days on the CHC theory, which divides intelligence into 10 broad and 70 narrow abilities. So, even though it says it is an IQ test, its not clear which tests are used.

    However, the way that Hannu is trying to use testing to denigrate blacks, I can quite see that they are open to abuse. But JD, you know full well that all statistical measures are open to interpretation and several forms of bias, but they can still be useful, nonetheless.

  10. Mark

    Ooops, messed that up. 🙂

    JD

    – “We assume a universality for IQ that is necessarily extrapolated beyond the boundaries of the test of IQ.”

    The extrapolation is a statistical operation:

    The g-loading of an intelligence test is the degree to the test score reflects general mental ability, as opposed to specific skills related to the test. Most highly g-loaded tests involve some form of abstract reasoning.

    While it is not universally accepted that the Spearman test is measuring ‘raw intelligence’, the correlations between job performance and educational performance, it does point out that psychologists are well aware that the skills tested in the test are not ‘raw intelligence’.

    In fact, modern research relies more these days on the CHC theory, which divides intelligence into 10 broad and 70 narrow abilities. So, even though it says it is an IQ test, its not clear which tests are used.

    However, the way that Hannu is trying to use testing to denigrate blacks, I can quite see that they are open to abuse. But JD, you know full well that all statistical measures are open to interpretation and several forms of bias, but they can still be useful, nonetheless.

  11. justicedemon

    Mark

    Ask yourself why you put the single quotes around your expression ‘raw intelligence’. Then look back at my remarks on postulated entities.

    I don’t think the term general mental ability means anything when it is understood as opposed to specific skills. That’s like talking about general ambulatory ability as opposed to the skill of walking. The specific skills are all that we can ever evaluate. Anything beyond that is speculative metaphysics.

  12. justicedemon

    Hannu

    OK – please explain how the research allowed for the impact of visitors to Finland – over six million of them last year. What happens to the denominator in your statistical percentages when we add six million to the total population of foreign-born in Finland?

    That’s just for starters.

  13. Hannu

    And that changes my statement how? How many somalis visited here last year? (5%) and how many iraqis? (3%) Estinians did visit (3%) and maybe some turkish (3%) Afganisthan, not known and yougoslavia werent that known for turism in here either (each 1%)

  14. justicedemon

    Hannu

    You haven’t made a statement.

    Continuing:

    Is the number of suspects a constant in each investigated offence? Otherwise how did the survey compensate for the natural tendency to overselect suspects belonging to visible minorities?

    For example, suppose that there are 200 people living in a hostel and three of them are black. If an offender is characterised as a black hostel resident, then how many suspects are there? And how many suspects are there if the offender is characterised as a white hostel resident?

    Why are there not automatically 197 suspects in the latter case?

    Under what circumstances in Finland would white skin colour constitute a sufficiently unique identifying feature to characterise someone in the pool of possible offenders as a suspect?

    Do we have corresponding statistics showing the national origin of suspects who were subsequently discharged from suspicion? This may have occurred during a pre-trial investigation, by a decision not to press charges or through acquittal at trial, specifically in relation to the aggravating factor.

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