Study: Liberals & Atheists Are Smarter

A study from the London School of Economics and Political Science has concluded that folks who identity themselves as liberals and atheists tend to have a slightly higher IQ than the general population. A higher IQ is also predictive of “sexual exclusivity” among men, but not women.

The IQ differences, while statistically significant, are not stunning — on the order of 6 to 11 points — and the data should not be used to stereotype or make assumptions about people, experts say. But they show how certain patterns of identifying with particular ideologies develop, and how some people’s behaviors come to be. The reasoning is that sexual exclusivity in men, liberalism and atheism all go against what would be expected given humans’ evolutionary past. In other words, none of these traits would have benefited our early human ancestors, but higher intelligence may be associated with them.

“The adoption of some evolutionarily novel ideas makes some sense in terms of moving the species forward,” said George Washington University leadership professor James Bailey, who was not involved in the study. “It also makes perfect sense that more intelligent people — people with, sort of, more intellectual firepower — are likely to be the ones to do that.” Bailey also said that these preferences may stem from a desire to show superiority or elitism, which also has to do with IQ. In fact, aligning oneself with “unconventional” philosophies such as liberalism or atheism may be “ways to communicate to everyone that you’re pretty smart,” he said.

The study looked at a large sample from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), which began with adolescents in grades 7-12 in the United States during the 1994-95 school year. The participants were interviewed as 18- to 28-year-olds from 2001 to 2002. The study also looked at the General Social Survey, another cross-national data collection source.

(Tipped by JMG reader Monica)