January 22, 2012

An uninsightful look at racist attitudes: IQ, conservatism and racism

Below is an academic journal article which claims that "racists" have low IQs. I append some comments at the foot of it
Bright Minds and Dark Attitudes

Lower Cognitive Ability Predicts Greater Prejudice Through Right-Wing Ideology and Low Intergroup Contact

Gordon Hodson et al.


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.


What the article ignores is that the mental gymnastics required by political correctness are considerable. A simple soul who sees a lot of black crime is likely to have a low opinion of blacks and say so. But, as is often said, some ideas are so stupid that only an intellectual would believe them. And concluding that chronic black criminality is all Whitey's fault is one such idea. So all the study really shows is that brighter people are more able to absorb the counterintuitive but politically correct cult that the elite have made normative in society. Only simpler people take their views from observable reality.

And we must also note that we are talking here about ADMITTED attitudes. And where some attitudes are much decried -- as are racially-denominated attitudes -- the truth of any admissions can only be speculated on. It could well be that attitude to blacks (say) is the same at all levels of IQ but only the simpler members of society are foolish enough to admit what they really think.

I could go on but I think it is already clear that this study proves nothing.


The study mentioned above has become much celebrated in Green/Left quarters, with the ineffable Monbiot in the vanguard. Monbiot's entry into the discussion has however energized a few ripostes from conservatives, with the most amusing point being that after Leftists telling us for decades that IQ scores are meaningless they suddenly have done an 180 degree turn and treat them as highly meaningful!

I thought I might add something to what I regard as the two best conservative responses to the original article. The first is in The Telegraph and makes a number of good points, all of which are worth reading.

I want to say more about just one of them: The point that IQ was measured during childhood (10 or 11 years of age) and that such measures are unreliable. That is however a matter of degree and of purpose. They are accurate enough to be a useful guide to who will benefit from a selective (more demanding) education, for instance.

An interesting aspect of scores at that age, however, is what I call the chimpanzee effect. In brief, this effect is that dummies mature faster so a relatively high score in childhood can lead to a relatively low score in adulthood. So it is quite possible that the high scorers in the data used by the Canadian authors became relatively low scorers later on. So if the high scorers in that body of data were later found to be liberals, it is quite possible that the same people were dummies in later life! So the data could be said to show the opposite of what the authors claim. The data could be said to suggest that it was the liberals who were the dummies.

That is all just speculation, however, The truth is that the data are incapable of telling us which way around it went at all.

That little point is really just a bit of fun, however. The second article by statistician Briggs is by far the most pointed. Reading the abstract was enough for me to see through the study but Briggs had the strong stomach to read the whole article. And when he did, he basically found that the authors had misrepresented their results. The correlations with IQ were in fact negligible. They were statistically significant but statistical significance is only a correction for small sample size and the sample sizes in the data used by the Canadians were large.

So statistical significance is irrelevant. It is other forms of significance we have to look at. Let me put it this way: What the Canadians found was (roughly) that out of 100 high IQ people, 51 would be liberals and 49 would be conservatives. Such a near-even split means of course that IQ is essentially irrelevant to ideology, or is not a socially or scientifically significant predictor of ideology.

Now we come to "racism". The correlations between conservatism and racism were more substantial. Briggs rightly detects the flaw in that. The correlation is between WHAT THE AUTHORS SAY is conservatism and racism and there is no external validation of either measure. So all I want to do is draw attention to something I set out long ago: That even eminent Leftist psychologists have NO IDEA what conservatism is. A much noted paper in the field even identified Stalin, Khrushchev and Castro as conservatives! Can you get any madder than that? So it is no wonder that when they use their questionnaires to predict how people will vote, they find that "conservatives" AS IDENTIFIED BY THEM are just as likely to vote Democrat as Republican (for instance). How clueless can you get? What is going on of course is that Leftist psychologists swallow hook line and sinker of Leftist propaganda about conservatives. They believe that conservatives really are as Leftist propaganda describes them. It would appear that they never bother to talk to any actual conservatives to find out what they really think.

By contrast, I am a conservative so a questionnaire that I devised based on a thorough knowledge of what conservatism actually is, did what the Leftist questionnaires could not: Provided a substantial prediction of vote. See here. So once again the arrogance and ignorance of the Left has led them to a false understanding of reality and scientific work that is futile and useless. The work by the two Canadian authors certainly tells us NOTHING about the correlations with conservatism. I have written more extensively elsewhere about the relationship between conservatism and IQ.

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