This is a summary of a research paper that will appear in the March 2010 issue of Social Psychology Quarterly, Intelligent People Have “Unnatural” Preferences and Values That Are Novel in Human Evolutionary History
Higher intelligence is associated with liberal political ideology, atheism, and men’s (but not women’s) preference for sexual exclusivity
More intelligent people are statistically significantly more likely to exhibit social values and religious and political preferences that are novel to the human species in evolutionary history. Specifically, liberalism and atheism, and for men (but not women), preference for sexual exclusivity correlate with higher intelligence, a new study finds.
The study, published in the March 2010 issue of the peer-reviewed scientific journal Social Psychology Quarterly, advances a new theory to explain why people form particular preferences and values. The theory suggests that more intelligent people are more likely than less intelligent people to adopt evolutionarily novel preferences and values, but intelligence does not correlate with preferences and values that are old enough to have been shaped by evolution over millions of years.
“Evolutionarily novel” preferences and values are those that humans are not biologically designed to have and our ancestors probably did not possess. In contrast, those that our ancestors had for millions of years are “evolutionarily familiar.”
“General intelligence, the ability to think and reason, endowed our ancestors with advantages in solving evolutionarily novel problems for which they did not have innate solutions,” says Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics and Political Science. “As a result, more intelligent people are more likely to recognize and understand such novel entities and situations than less intelligent people, and some of these entities and situations are preferences, values, and lifestyles.”
An earlier study by Kanazawa found that more intelligent individuals were more nocturnal, waking up and staying up later than less intelligent individuals. Because our ancestors lacked artificial light, they tended to wake up shortly before dawn and go to sleep shortly after dusk. Being nocturnal is evolutionarily novel.
In the current study, Kanazawa argues that humans are evolutionarily designed to be conservative, caring mostly about their family and friends, and being liberal, caring about an indefinite number of genetically unrelated strangers they never meet or interact with, is evolutionarily novel. So more intelligent children may be more likely to grow up to be liberals.
Data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) support Kanazawa’s hypothesis. Young adults who subjectively identify themselves as “very liberal” have an average IQ of 106 during adolescence while those who identify themselves as “very conservative” have an average IQ of 95 during adolescence.
Similarly, religion is a byproduct of humans’ tendency to perceive agency and intention as causes of events, to see “the hands of God” at work behind otherwise natural phenomena. “Humans are evolutionarily designed to be paranoid, and they believe in God because they are paranoid,” says Kanazawa. This innate bias toward paranoia served humans well when self-preservation and protection of their families and clans depended on extreme vigilance to all potential dangers. “So, more intelligent children are more likely to grow up to go against their natural evolutionary tendency to believe in God, and they become atheists.”
Young adults who identify themselves as “not at all religious” have an average IQ of 103 during adolescence, while those who identify themselves as “very religious” have an average IQ of 97 during adolescence.
In addition, humans have always been mildly polygynous in evolutionary history. Men in polygynous marriages were not expected to be sexually exclusive to one mate, whereas men in monogamous marriages were. In sharp contrast, whether they are in a monogamous or polygynous marriage, women were always expected to be sexually exclusive to one mate. So being sexually exclusive is evolutionarily novel for men, but not for women. And the theory predicts that more intelligent men are more likely to value sexual exclusivity than less intelligent men, but general intelligence makes no difference for women’s value on sexual exclusivity. Kanazawa’s analysis of Add Health data supports these sex-specific predictions as well.
One intriguing but theoretically predicted finding of the study is that more intelligent people are no more or no less likely to value such evolutionarily familiar entities as marriage, family, children, and friends.
This paper is unlikely to change many opinions on one side of the equation. The other side has probably figured out at this point in our political history that it would be nice, certainly less migraine inducing, if our public policy issued were simply a matter of the really smart people on one side and the less intellectually endowed on the other. I know a conservative that is very good and makes a fair living at calculating statistical probabilities. I’m slightly better than average at statistics, but could never make a living doing that kind of work. On the other hand this statistician does not have a huge skill set. So his intelligence versus the average person would average out over a range of intelligence measures. My armchair theory is that many conservatives possess something akin to the “Rainman” phenomenon. They can be good programmers, but not understand the negative implications to U.S. business and trade of our crony capitalism based health care system on the deficit, GDP and competing with the European Union, Japan and China in the global marketplace. The analytical skills they use to work the bugs out of a program are over ridden by the nonsensical rantings of Glenn Beck – freedom equals the power to get sick and declare bankruptcy – makes sense to the same brain that can find one line of code that is over paying everyone one cent for every overtime hour they work. While conservatives frequently make incongruous connections between things – Jonah Goldberg’s bizarre attempt to link fascism with liberalism is a good example – they share the inability to see connections or to differentiate between correlations and cause and effect. Throwing two stones into a pond is a good example. Notice how the waves generated overlap, then overlap again, very soon its hard to tell where the waves originated from the original stones and new waves that were created by the clashing of waves. The real world is not like those two stones and the waves, millions of times more complex. With even more interactions. The Right’s penchant for rewriting history and being intractable about change, progress and what constitutes progress is the perfect mix of the inability to comprehend how complex are lives are and their fear of that complexity. When someone is told there is a spider on their shoulder but don’t worry its a harmless wolf spider, they’re going to shiver or jump anyway. When you point a conservative to a chart showing that liberals actually have a better record of making government smaller than conservatives and that other than multi-millionaires everyone makes more money from liberal governess, all you’re doing is reenacting the primitive reactions of the spider scenario. On a national level we can’t have an intelligent discussion about the economy or birth control or climate change or college student loans because there are two walls to break through. The one that cannot comprehend the interconnected benefits of liberal policy and the one that might be able to, but is conditioned to jump and scream because of some primal reflex – conservative anger is a result of their imagined fears. In addition to or riding shotgun with these issues is the insistence that one understands the complexities of an issue, makes dire predictions based on those false – though deeply held beliefs – which are passed along by parents, teachers, some of the media, books etc and then morph into grail carved in stone. Take the poor people are lazy commandment. As far as traditional backbreaking sweat stained work is concerned, poor people exert more work per dollar then any one who has great wealth. That writ about laziness is proof the person saying it does not know anyone that is poor, is mentally slippery enough to delude themselves about reality. The reverse is also true. Those that believe in the perennially shiftless poor do not know any rich people or suffers from the kind of culturally inscribed self-esteem issues that have them enthralled to people solely based on material possessions and or title/position – symptomatic of conservatism is worship of authority for its own sake. Part of the belief system that overrides what might be a perfectly good mind is the inability to comprehend the implications of negative consequences. Nixon moved the country to the far Right – different from say the conservatism of Dwight Eisenhower ( not a bad General but an example of the Peter Principle as far as executive office is concerned) and Nixon’s legacy is one of bad judgment and corruption. What did Reagan learn from that. To be even more inept at public policy, move even further Right and have an administration that set a record for officials charged with federal crimes. Looking back at the atrocious failures of Nixon and Reagan’s ideology( Bush 41 was Reagan Part III), what did G.W. Bush do. Move even further Right and have what will probably go down in history as the worse presidency in history. With an occasional break we’ve had 60 years of modern “conservatism” – though the roots of today’s Right can be traced back to pre-Civil war era and in many ways back to pre-Enlightenment Europe. If politics were one physical act the current crop of tea bagger conservatives are yet another generation of people calling for pushing everyone in deeper and longer into the boiling oil. Glenn Beck and cohorts do not look back and see the conservative cancer eating away at the nation. He performs this neat mental trick of believing, despite the mountain of evidence to the contrary, that he and his cohorts are not the cancer. They deflect the blame. It’s as though rational thought was a virus and the Glenn-baggers have built up an immunity – here’s my chalk board I’ll show you and throw in a picture of a tree with pictures. Granted there is a lot of cleverness amidst all the noise machine that makes up the Right from their wealthy benefactors/power brokers to the AM radio hate mongers, but the structural flaws remain and they are likely to remain.
One last bit. There is a tendency among some liberals, especially the younger ones, when it comes to this discussion to make one fundamentally flawed assumption – that intelligence in and of itself is either moral or benign. Bright people do tend to make better decisions, but think of Dr. Moriarty or Adm. Poindexter.
For one perspective on the intelligence and religion aspects of the article, biology professor PZ Meyers hated it, Stop patting yourselves on the back over this study
A team from the University of Copenhagen, led by postdoc Luke Holman of the Center for Social Evolution, describes in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, published on the 24 February 2010, that ant queens are much more devious than previously thought. Often, an ant colony has more than one queen. Multiple queens can produce a larger initial workforce in incipient colonies, increasing the chance the colony will survive the hazardous first year. But queens do not happily cohabit forever; soon after the young workers hatch, they begin to slaughter surplus queens until only one remains.