Published in Psychological Science, the abstract for Bright Minds and Dark Attitudes:Lower Cognitive Ability Predicts Greater Prejudice Through Right-Wing Ideology and Low Intergroup Contact, reads,
Not surprising this study has gained some currency in the press. From Intelligence Study Links Low I.Q To Prejudice, Racism, Conservatism,...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.
Are racists dumb? Do conservatives tend to be less intelligent than liberals? A provocative new study from Brock University in Ontario suggests the answer to both questions may be a qualified yes. ...
Dr. Gordon Hodson, a professor of psychology at the university and the study's lead author, said the finding represented evidence of a vicious cycle: People of low intelligence gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies, which stress resistance to change and, in turn, prejudice, he told LiveScience.
Why might less intelligent people be drawn to conservative ideologies? Because such ideologies feature "structure and order" that make it easier to comprehend a complicated world, Dodson said. "Unfortunately, many of these features can also contribute to prejudice," he added.
Dr. Brian Nosek, a University of Virginia psychologist, echoed those sentiments. "Reality is complicated and messy," he 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.
In any case, the study has taken the internet by storm, with some outspoken liberals saying that their it validates their suspicions about conservatives and conservatives arguing that the research has been misinterpreted.