A former college instructor of mine, a psychology professor, used to say that psychological research was necessary, if for no other reason than to confirm what Great Aunt Edna touted as commonsense fifty years before.
A new study by Brock University in Ontario has been published in Psychological Science and is making quite a splash across the Internet. It apparently shows that people who score low on IQ tests in childhood are more likely to develop prejudiced beliefs and become more socially conservative in politics as adults.
The study's lead author, Dr. Gordon Hodson, a psychology professor, said that the findings actually represent evidence of a vicious cycle in which people of low intelligence gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies - which, in turn, stress resistance to change and fuel prejudices. Dr. Brian Nosek of the University of Virginia, also a psychologist, tried to further illuminate Dr. Hodson's concept of the cycle in which people of lower intelligence might tend to drift toward conservative ideologies. Dr. Nosek said:
"Reality is complicated and messy. 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."
Yes, all of that - and thinking Fox News is real news!
There are, of course, some problems with all of this. First of all, no one really knows if IQ tests measure intelligence or not, but people who do well on them often wind up in the better schools and making the better incomes. But, even if the tests do measure intelligence, there are also many other factors that contribute to success in life - family wealth, skin color, and the money spent on local schools, for instance. Conservatives probably won't appreciate the implications of this study, but some members of that end of the political spectrum like to tout IQ tests when they show certain racial groupings doing less well on the tests than other groups.
Also, correlations by themselves, do not prove cause and effect.
But it is still sort of comforting to see something in print, from a university no less, that indicates stupidity may lead to racism, birtherism, and religious intolerance! It is something that Great Aunt Edna figured out for herself long, long ago!