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Yes, Leave voters probably were on average less intelligent than Remain voters

If the philosopher A. C. Grayling ever had ambitions to stand for elected office, this tweet will have killed them stone dead:

As usual, here is the text of that tweet in case it disappears:

A C Grayling #FBPE #Reform #Rejoin #FBPR
U of Bath study: “only 40% of people with the lowest cognitive ability voted Remain, while 73% of those with the highest cognitive ability voted Remain…people with lower cognitive ability and analytical thinking skills are more susceptible to misinformation and disinformation”.
10:23 PM · Nov 23, 2023

The replies, unsurprisingly in this egalitarian age, are overwhelmingly hostile. But since I, like Professor Grayling, have no political ambitions, I can admit that he is probably right. It would be a strange chance if the average IQs of Leave and Remain were perfectly equal. If they were not equal, one group had to be cleverer on average. Because I assume that people usually vote in their class interests, I assume that the cognitive elite, whose intelligence usually translates well into wealth and prestige, voted to perpetuate the status quo. Alas for them, the lesser folk also had a vote and had a pretty good inkling that it was not a good idea to remain under the increasingly immovable rule of a class of people who despised them.

While Professor Grayling’s first sentence is probably true, the three little dots that he put between the claim that the stupider-on-average (can I stop adding the “on average” now?) people voted Leave and the conclusion that they did so because they were particularly susceptible to disinformation are doing so much work that they ought to bring a claim under the EU Working Time Directive.

I was about to quote Orwell’s line about “There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them” when a fortunate burst of insecurity led me to check the quote and find out that Orwell never said it; it was Bertrand Russell. Clever bloke, Russell. Also frequently a twit, though capable of being embarrassed by his own previous excesses. Whoever said it, it’s true. It is proverbial among those who study scams that the easiest people to scam are those who think they are too clever to be scammed.

Edit 27/11/2023: In the comments, Rich Rostrom has supplied the phrase with a very similar meaning that George Orwell actually did say, namely “One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.” It occurs in Orwell’s 1945 essay “Notes on Nationalism”. Change a few words and the whole paragraph could be re-used today:

“It is, I think, true to say that the intelligentsia have been more wrong about the progress of the war than the common people, and that they were more swayed by partisan feelings. The average intellectual of the Left believed, for instance, that the war was lost in 1940, that the Germans were bound to overrun Egypt in 1942, that the Japanese would never be driven out of the lands they had conquered, and that the Anglo-American bombing offensive was making no impression on Germany. He could believe these things because his hatred for the British ruling class forbade him to admit that British plans could succeed. There is no limit to the follies that can be swallowed if one is under the influence of feelings of this kind. I have heard it confidently stated, for instance, that the American troops had been brought to Europe not to fight the Germans but to crush an English revolution. One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.”

A related point was made by Dominic Cummings in his famous “Frogs before the storm” blog post:

“Generally the better educated are more prone to irrational political opinions and political hysteria than the worse educated far from power. Why? In the field of political opinion they are more driven by fashion, a gang mentality, and the desire to pose about moral and political questions all of which exacerbate cognitive biases, encourage groupthink, and reduce accuracy. Those on average incomes are less likely to express political views to send signals; political views are much less important for signalling to one’s immediate in-group when you are on 20k a year.”

46 comments to Yes, Leave voters probably were on average less intelligent than Remain voters

  • Lee Moore

    Yup, I’m pretty sure I could con Prof Grayling out of his pension in a couple of hours. My plumber, not so much.

  • lucklucky

    “There are some ideas so Evil that only an intellectual could believe them”

    Would also insert here a variation.

  • Kirk

    Does he have an opinion on the people who sold Britain’s sovereignty away for a mess of pottage, in the first damn place?

    I’ve been saying for years that the “system” has been using the wrong criteria to evaluate this thing we all call “intelligence”. If the people who wanted out of the EU and for the UK to have its own sovereignty returned did less well on the tests, then I would propose that whatever the hell those tests are measuring ain’t “intelligence”.

    It’s really too bad that nobody has been able to come up with a means of quantifying the qualities we think of when we say “Common Sense” and “Wisdom”, because if we had…? I suspect that most of the “Remainer” types would have done very, very poorly on that criteria.

    The EU is a sinking ship of tyranny and bureaucracy that’s likely to take the continent down with it. Look what they’re trying to do to some of the most productive farmers in the world, the Dutch… Morons, one and all.

  • Crosbie

    That’s a very clear and convincing explanation of the study result. I would also be interested in seeing what *other* opinions cognitively elite remainers held before assuming their opinions were the direct product of their cognitive skills.

  • Agammamon

    What this guy, who I presume considers themself to be fairly intelligent, seems to not have considers is;

    What if being part of the EU is beneficial to those in the upper limits of cognitive ability but harmful to those outside of that range? What if those intelligent people understand this and support the EU because they’re selfish and want the personal benefits and don’t care abou the harms to others?

    He seems to be operating under a demonstrably false assumption that everyone (or at least smart people) vote for things that ‘benefit society’ and not ‘things that benefit me’.

    Even if you voted for Brexit because you fell for ‘misinformation’, if the EU is harmful to you, you still didn’t make a mistake.

  • Phil B

    @Kirk, November 27, 2023 at 3:26 am

    I have always thought that the brain is like a bucket. You can either fill it with intelligence or common sense. It has been my observation that, on average, the more intelligent, the less common sense. That tweet seems to confirm it.

    There is always the snob value at work. the “I’m so much cleverer and intelligent than the oiks that of course whatever I say is OBVIOUSLY correct”, no matter what the subject, plays a big part in their world view.

  • Fred Z

    You and Grayling continue to confuse “stupid” and “slow”.

    I have employed working class people for 40 years. Very few of them are stupid but most of them are slow.

    They think, they ponder, they argue amongst themselves and they reach correct and sensible conclusions. But very slowly.

    Then they often act on them with force and vigour that shocks intellectuals who prefer to blather.

    When the Slows decide they’re done with woke bullshit, they’ll be at the barricades.

  • Kirk

    People that consider themselves “smart” generally… Aren’t. And, the more they’ve invested in their supposed “intelligence”, the more arrogant they get about it all. Which usually then leads to them making a bunch of really stupid decisions and saying equally stupid things.

    It’s rather odd that we don’t really divide society by “intelligence”. I mean, we try to, we pay lip service to it, but… Do we really institutionalize it, or are we more prone to divvying things up along class or “People we know and approve of…”?

    We sure as hell don’t have a performance-based meritocracy. If we did, nine-tenths of the Ivy League wouldn’t be filled with the smarmy git “legacy” types it is now. They’d likely be Asian, but… That’s what a real meritocracy would look like, one with actual deserving people in it.

    I fear that the current system does not actually measure or assess real intelligence; what it does do, to an insane degree, is measure and assess the appearance of intelligence.

    So long as you can do well on the tests, and “sound smart”? You’re golden. But, we keep hearing about these cases where the “smart people” do all these things that clearly indicate that they really ain’t all that smart, things that lesser intellects wouldn’t fall prey to…

    Anyone remember Bruce Hay?


    This guy was a Harvard Law professor, and he got taken to the cleaners like some dumbass farm kid from the sticks with a paternity fraud scam. Read that article, and marvel at the demonstrated performative intelligence shown by this then 52-year-old man, and ask yourself how the hell he’s an Ivy League professor…?

    I’ve had privates that fell for similar schemes, but by the time those guys were in their mid- to late-twenties? They’d developed the common sense to avoid getting into similar entanglements.

    Guys who, I must point out, almost certainly scored considerably lower on the sainted “tests”.

    Does that tell us anything, I wonder?

    I kinda think it does.

  • A Dubbo

    From the study “The researchers emphasise that it is important to understand that findings are based on average differences between large groups of voters.

    “Depending on which side of the debate you fall, reading this may fill you with anger or joy. However, both these emotions are an error of judgement,” said Dr Dawson.

    “It is important to understand that our findings are based on average differences: there exists a huge amount of overlap between the distributions of Remain and Leave cognitive abilities. Indeed, we calculated that approximately 36% of Leave voters had higher cognitive ability than the average (mean) Remain voter,” he said.”

    Not that sure that the results ( data analysis- conclusions)of the study should be taken that seriously either.

  • Kirk

    Phil B said:

    I have always thought that the brain is like a bucket. You can either fill it with intelligence or common sense. It has been my observation that, on average, the more intelligent, the less common sense. That tweet seems to confirm it.

    There is always the snob value at work. the “I’m so much cleverer and intelligent than the oiks that of course whatever I say is OBVIOUSLY correct”, no matter what the subject, plays a big part in their world view.

    I’ve always analyzed it as “We’re defining this incorrectly…”

    Whatever the hell Binet was measuring with his tests, it was not that quality we think of generally as “intelligence”. I’ve got an acquaintance of mine who has a measured 160 IQ test, MENSA membership and several degrees from prestigious institutions. Abstract thinking? He sounds like a genius, talking to him.

    His Border Collie regularly outsmarts him, and I don’t mean to point that out to say that he’s stupid, it’s just that whatever the hell that 160 score means in terms of academics and whatnot, his dog regularly figures out how to get the food off his plate. And, he falls for the same tricks, every damn time… You watch the two of them interact, and you really start to worry for the future of the human race. That dog has a repertoire of about three routines it pulls to get him distracted while the dog snatches the food off his plate, and he’s constantly falling for them.

    There’s whatever Binet was measuring, and then there’s actual real-world performative intelligence. I used to see this all the time in the Army, when my college-bound middle-class white guys and girls interacted with the lower-scoring types in a lot of the support jobs. The number of times I had to straighten out outright swindles with things like turn-ins of equipment and personal gear…? After about the fifth time the same high-scoring idiot falls for the same scam, you really have to wonder about the benefits of enlisting those knuckleheads. “Dude, did you check the paperwork this time? No? Go back and get it straight…”

    Swear to God, some days felt like I was in one of those fairy tales about the stupid kid, like Jack and the Beanstalk. “Oh, look, Sergeant K, I got us some magic beans…”

    Intelligence, I feel, is something that is demonstrated in performance. A high IQ is akin to a high-performance engine; couple it with a high-end sports car or a big truck, you’re golden. Put it into something like one of British Leyland’s lesser products, with a lousy transmission, poor suspension, and bad tires…? You ain’t winning any races with that, and you’re likely going to be smashed up and dead before very long.

    In that metaphor, the engine is IQ, the transmission is common sense, the suspension is wisdom, and the work ethic is the tires. All four about the same, working together? You have something; just have the one thing, the engine? You’ve a disaster waiting to happen.

    And, I’m not denigrating intelligence, either. It’s just that the way we’ve defined it, as being the qualities we can test for easily? That’s totally inadequate, and has led to a serious warping of modern society. It’s like we set out to select and place a certain form of autism in positions of power and responsibility, and now wonder why the hell things are not doing very well…

    There’s more to the question of intelligence than what you can tease out of the test scores.

  • APL

    I can admit that he is probably right.

    Johnson gained a King’s Scholarship to Eton College, went on to attend Eton College and studied Classics at Balliol College, Oxford. [PRO BREXIT]

    Matt Hancock studied at Exeter College, Oxford, and graduated with a first in philosophy, politics and economics, was awarded a MPhil degree in economics at Christ’s College, Cambridge. [PRO REMAIN]

    Two selected more or less at random [Could have selected Blair, another highly educated dud that got everything wrong ] but on opposing sides of the Brexit referendum, both well educated enjoying the best the first tier of British Universities have to offer. Both defenestrated by their peers in the government and civil service, both, complete an utter maroons when the rubber hit the road.

    In the case of Hancock, that qualification, should have disqualified him from holding any public office, higher in rank that the tea boy.

  • Roué le Jour

    It is not clear from the text that “cognitive ability” is IQ.

    I also think of IQ as a high performance engine, but I think it doesn’t matter how fast your car is if it isn’t pointed in the right direction to start with. For example, I expect some of those holy inquisitors were pretty smart guys. Our government firmly believes that collectivism is the road to Utopia and they’re making pretty good time.

  • DiscoveredJoys

    I watched A C Grayling’s communications during the run up to the Referendum and was not impressed. His stance seemed to be that membership of the EU was so *obviously* much a good thing that only the deluded or unintelligent would vote Leave. He ardently promoted, and still promotes, the EU and even rejoining.

    I came to the conclusion that he was promoting class interests rather than any logical argument and in my opinion that made him a nob and a knob.

  • Rich Rostrom

    What Orwell actually wrote:

    One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.

    The passage is in his 1945 essay “Notes on Nationalism“.

  • Mark

    Surely its, precisely the opposite.

    Disinformation was sent to every UK address and we rejected it.

    Of course, the “disinformation” with which the euro whores are utterly obsessed is a billboard bout £350 for the state religion, which very few people outside Londanistan would have actually seen!

  • lucklucky

    The EU is a sinking ship of tyranny and bureaucracy that’s likely to take the continent down with it.

    And you just shot your feet… What is precisely the difference between Britain state and UE state? It was Britain that had the biggest pro-Hamas marches, it is Britain that have a “conservative” government where the police protects the extreme left – language washed by British media as activists.

  • X Trapnel

    @Crosbie – absolutely. I can think of high-intellect types with preferences for x over y which put them out of step with the majority, none of which most people would have a problem with. If Professor Piffle prefers a glass of Gavi di Gavi to a glass of Stella Artois, a holiday in Tuscany to a holiday in Andalucia, rugby to association football, or sexual adventures over a lifetime of monogamy, then good for him. If he and his pals prefer the UK being in the EU than out, that’s up to them too. It’s when they ascribe their choices as natural corollaries of their IQ score that things start to look a little… muddled.

    Grayling is a philosopher, so can be assumed to have a better than average grasp of theories of causation than most of us. That is why he goes to Twitter to juxtapose x and y in the same 280 characters and watch with amusement while the idiots who don’t get that when x is true and y is true that does not entail that y happened because of x. He wouldn’t dream of constructing a serious argument on that basis, but most people’s cognitive ability doesn’t rise above

    – Professor Piffle is clever
    – Professor Piffle says that the moon is made of cream cheese
    – the moon must be made of cream cheese
    – people who think otherwise are idiots

    Grayling’s not an idiot. He’s just being thoroughly dishonest to his own profession.

  • Stonyground

    I left school at seventeen with a bog standard comprehensive education and four O Levels. I served an apprenticeship and have had a productive career in engineering. I am also pretty well read about all kinds of subjects, I seem to be blessed with a fairly insatiable natural curiosity. I’ve no idea how well I would perform on the intelligence tests in question. For a start I suspect that they might have been designed to produce a particular desired result.

    I’m also curious to know what specifically was the disinformation that I swallowed uncritically that led me to stupidly vote to leave the wonderful EU. was I mistaken in thinking that the UK was a net contributor to EU finances and that effectively money was being taken from my pocket to be spent in other countries? Maybe the EU is a functioning democracy and I was mistaken to think that the EU parliament is nothing but window dressing and that the real power lies with unelected bureaucrats that I can’t vote out. Maybe I’m confused about the EU only being a small part of the global economy so that having tariff free trade with Europe was offset by tariffs on trade with the rest of the world. I could list many more examples like this, maybe I am misinformed about some of it, no one gets everything right, but on balance I think that I can demonstrate that I voted leave for pretty sound reasons.

  • Snorri Godhi

    One of the things that impressed me in reports from users of ChatGPT, is that it is unable to detect and purge contradictions within its answer.

    Being unable to detect contradictions, it cannot detect falsification either. This means that it cannot do scientific research, but it also means that it cannot distinguish between information and misinformation: ChatGPT uses both, indiscriminately, to learn word associations; and subsequently it is most likely to repeat whatever (mis)information has been input most often.

    I submit that something similar is going on in human brains: We are able to detect contradictions between beliefs, but we* tend to believe whatever we hear/read most often, and to dismiss contradictory beliefs as “misinformation”, even when the latter are actually better compatible with known facts.
    This is irrespective of one’s “true” intelligence: it depends more on making the effort to apply one’s intelligence to known facts.

    * in this context, ‘we’ means everybody except me. 🙂

  • rhoda klapp

    The way people, well most of us, get our opinions is that the unconcious mind jumps to a conclusion and the intellect proceeds to justify it. This is the elephant and mahout model proposed by Jonathan Haidt among others. The higher the IQ the easier to justify that jumped-to conclusion no matter how daft.

    As far as the EU is concerned, the project fear arguments can now be shown to have been misinformation or at least incorrect predictions. They, the remainers, never made any other argument. They never made the positive case for staying in, they never even defended the EU from the valid arguments about sovereignty and democratic deficit. Just fear. And they think we are stupid.

  • Jim

    “It’s really too bad that nobody has been able to come up with a means of quantifying the qualities we think of when we say “Common Sense” and “Wisdom”, because if we had…? I suspect that most of the “Remainer” types would have done very, very poorly on that criteria.”

    I think we now have such a qualifier – the question ‘Can a man become a woman?’ If you answer yes, then you definitely do not have any common sense nor any wisdom. If no, then while you may not have either in abundance, you at least have a basic grounding in them.

    And my guess would be that remainers would disproportionately answer Yes.

  • Lee Moore

    IQ tests now rehabilitated with the lefties.

    Is there anything Brexit can’t do ?

  • KJP

    EU membership meant cheap foreign labour: to the elite left that meant cheap domestic servants; to the working classes it meant lower wages.

    I wonder if the Dunning–Kruger effect has any relevance here.

  • Snorri Godhi

    It was Britain that had the biggest pro-Hamas marches, it is Britain that have a “conservative” government where the police protects the extreme left

    I haven’t seen estimates of the sizes of the pro-Hamas demos, but it would not surprise me if London had the largest.

    As for the British police, we knew before the marches that they have become little more than an instrument of political repression, like the FBI.

    What surprised me was the difference between American and EUropean universities. I do not know of any pro-Palestinian, let alone pro-Hamas, demo in any EUropean university. Not even British universities, although my memory might be faulty about this.

  • Ben David

    (sits quietly and unobtrusively in a dark corner, hoping nobody starts talking about the Jewish intellectuals now shocked by their leftie “allies” antisemitism…)

    “One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.”

    As Victor Borge (IIRC) said: Jews are like everyone else, only more so.

  • Kirk

    lucklucky said:

    And you just shot your feet… What is precisely the difference between Britain state and UE state? It was Britain that had the biggest pro-Hamas marches, it is Britain that have a “conservative” government where the police protects the extreme left – language washed by British media as activists.

    There really isn’t an intrinsic difference between the two, which was why the UK government was mostly “Remainer”. It was their project, their swindle, their power they wanted increased and enhanced. The public just stopped that, and now they need to finish the job by taking back their own government from the traitor class.

    Which actively aided and abetted the entire sordid display of Hamas protesting in London for the right to kill more Jews. It’s quite as if the UK had withdrawn from Nazi Germany and then allowed the local version under Mosley to protest for Hitler’s right to kill Jews…

    At some point, the actual people of the UK are going to have to figure out for themselves that their “leaders” are Judas goats, cozening them into the slaughterhouse. Just like in the US; no idea what they’ll do about it, but that realization is yet to come, and it very badly needs to.

    Hell, even Boris Johnson was really just posing as a believer in BREXIT. I don’t think he’s really a believer in it, at all; every other decision and actual action he’s taken says “Statist freak with double standards”.

    The citizenry will figure it out, in due course. When that happens? Lordy-lord-lord, but the tumbrils will be busy. I expect that there will be memorial plaques up at Cambridge and Oxford, just as there will be at Harvard and Yale, commemorating all the diploma-holding cretins that were tried and executed for treason against their own people.

    Which may or may not serve their purpose as cautionary warnings to future graduates. Assuming there are any…

  • jgh

    Intelligence vs Credentialisation.

    I sat a technical examination last week, and by about halfway through I was panicing and certain I was crashing and convinced I’d revised the wrong syllabus for the exam, the questions covered things I’d never heard of.
    I was gobsmacked when I found I’d passed with 92% (pass mark 80%), but all that says to me is that I had the skill to pass the exam, and the confidence to keep calm and think through the questions (and not walk out in panic). Actually being any good at the practical application is a different skill to sitting the exam, and I will – with relief – revert to my default of “check the manual”.

  • Runcie Balspune

    You’d have thought with all the arguments Grayling has made against highly educated religionists he’d at least come to the conclusion you dont need to be stupid to believe in nonsense.

  • Sean

    Less intelligent – but smarter.

  • Paul Marks

    Professor Grayling presents no arguments against independence, he does not show how the rule of a hostile foreign power (the European Union – but this is really just part of international governance) is better than self government, he just says, in effect, “we are cleverer than you – our study shows this”.

    As Theoden replies the Saruman in Professor Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” – if you were ten times as wise you would not have the right to rule me-and-mine for your own profit. Although it would not have mattered had Saruman’s motives had been noble – he would still have no right to impose his will, and intelligence is NOT wisdom. Many highly intelligent people are not wise – indeed they are horribly unwise.

    And as Aristotle said against Plato – it is not the chef (the expert) who decides whether the meal is good, it is the eater of the meal.

    It is not Professor Grayling and his international establishment associates to tell us what is good governance – it is for us, the governed, to decide that.

    As for “disinformation and misinformation” – the international establishment produce most of it, holding that their superior intelligence, and supposedly noble motives, justify their lies.

  • Snorri Godhi

    intelligence is NOT wisdom. Many highly intelligent people are not wise – indeed they are horribly unwise.

    Paul, you might as well say it clearly:
    Intelligence is NOT SANITY.
    Many highly intelligent people are INSANE – indeed they are horribly insane.

  • Kirk

    Like I’ve said for years… Whatever quality the tests are measuring, it isn’t what the rest of us think of as “functional intelligence”.

    I’ve made the connection before to motors… The “highly intelligent” have high-octane racing performance brains that are all too prone to running out of control or not running well on the wrong fuel. They also tend to blow up. And, they have to be properly matched with everything else in the equation.

    I don’t think that it’s necessarily all that odd that many of the true genius types have to have keepers around for getting through daily life. Many of them can’t even function independently very well, and the crap they get up to left to themselves…?

    I had one young man working for me that was a bona-fide certified genius, tested IQ of about 150. Brilliant young man, you could hand him a manual for a new, highly complex radio with all the bells and whistles on it, like encryption and frequency hopping. From the unclassified operator’s manual and the limited knowledge that he had of such things from his background, he was able to infer a bunch of the stuff that was supposed to be classified and accessible only to the commo guys, which as you can imagine, horrified them no end. I had to get him a clearance because of that, and the commo guys tried taking him away from me. End of the day, he stayed because he had to work in his bonus Military Occupational Specialty.

    Now, there were reasons I tried to make that happen, and they were purely selfish. This twerp was ‘effing brilliant, OK? He also bored very very easily. Do you know what we call a bored Combat Engineer, aside from extremely dangerous? A safety risk. And, this young man was excessively smart for his job. I found him one day down in the HAZMAT cage, and he was cleaning it up the way he was told. He was also doing the chemical reaction equations on the wall for what all the interactions would be if the crap we had in there were to get, say, spilled and mixed.

    What he was doing? Just basically playing “What’s the worst thing that could happen…” for funsies, and then leaving the notes/evidence laying around for everyone to see.

    Another time, I found him idling away the clock-cycles of his brain by playing with the fuse components in my ammo yard, trying to figure out how to boost the blast on an anti-tank mine with them.

    He scared the hell out of me, to be quite honest. High-octane mind, no brakes, no judgment. I coupled my most down-to-earth junior NCO with him, and made him report to me if our genius started to actually do anything really dangerous, or which my corporal didn’t understand.

    I would hate to think what this guy would be capable of, turned loose with an industrial safety manual and access to some of the warehouses on the bases we were at. I’d probably turn my back, and find out he’d managed to implement the largest non-nuclear explosion in recent memory.

    Did I mention he had a fascination with explosives and big bangs?

  • Paul Marks

    Good point Snorri.

  • lucklucky

    There really isn’t an intrinsic difference between the two

    That is my point. It is good that Brexit happened because 2 wrong regimes give more chance one can be reformed and also the evil is distributed, not because one is better than the other.

  • Lee Moore

    Kirk : Like I’ve said for years… Whatever quality the tests are measuring, it isn’t what the rest of us think of as “functional intelligence”.

    I don’t think so. Nobody knows what IQ tests measure. But whatever it is, it correlates quite well with positive real life outcomes – eg income, marital stability, absence of criminal behaviour and so on. 95% of The Bell Curve (the 95% that nobody’s heard of, because it isn’t about race) is about these correlations between IQ test score and positive real world outcomes.

    It’s possible, of course, that “functional intelligence”, whatever that might be, contributes zip to these positive outcomes. But if so, it’s not easy to see what is “functional” about “functional intelligence.”

    I would prefer to surmise that whatever IQ tests measure, it is to some extent related to functional intelligence. However the correlations between IQ scores and positive real life outcomes are statistical not determinative, leaving enormous scope for substantial numbers of incompetent unwise people with high IQ scores.

    And, disproportionately, these compose the subset of high IQ people we hear from. Academia – with all due apology to the exceptions – is obviously Grand Central Station for high IQ folk who have no talent for or experience of reality. That’s where you go if your head is in the clouds, or up your rear end. And if you are moderately smart, but not enough for academia, but have no knowledge of, or talent for anything of practical use, you join the chattering professions.

    So I think the notion of the general idiocy of high IQ folk is the result of selection bias. The majority of non idiot high IQ folk are designing production lines, or selling soap on a vast and lucrative scale. The academics and chatterboxes are the ones pushing forward to, as the saying goes, “remove all doubt.”

  • Snorri Godhi

    WRT Ben David’s comment (November 27, 2023 at 2:05 pm), the Insta-Professor had a link today to his recent substack post, where he basically bragged that he told you so.

  • Snorri Godhi

    So I think the notion of the general idiocy of high IQ folk is the result of selection bias

    Leave aside the fact that “the idiocy of high IQ folk” is a contradiction, the equivalent of: the low IQ of high IQ folk.
    (One should say instead: the insanity of high IQ folk.)

    I agree that there is selection bias, but not in the same way suggested by Lee Moore:
    When highly intelligent individuals like Noam Chomsky or George Soros express an insane opinion, they are noticed; when somebody like Biden or his VP does, they are laughed off and quickly forgotten.

  • pete

    Lots of less intelligent people vote Labour but nobody ever mentions that.

    Go to any poor district full of people who don’t earn much and need help from others with their living and housing costs because they aren’t intelligent enough to pay their way and you’ll almost certainly be in a Labour voting area.

    Without the votes of these people Labour would never win elections.

  • Stonyground

    “Without the votes of these people Labour would never win elections.”

    It never occurs to such people that, in order to win elections, the Labour Party needs them to stay poor.

  • Kirk

    @ Lee Moore,

    You have failed to account for something in your thought process.

    OK, let us say for the sake of argument that “High IQ correlates well with life-success…”

    Why should this be? Could it be because these are truly nature’s noblemen, identified as worthy through testing? This would be the summation of your thesis with regards to this, no?

    Alternatively, could it be that “life-success” correlates well with “high IQ test scores” because those scores turn into a self-licking ice-cream cone of cause and effect: Do well on them, and you’re tracked into better, more thorough instruction that tracks you into still more advanced classes and positions. When the system finally spits you out, after tertiary education, you’re slipped right into some nifty job that pays really, really well…

    So, life success, as a direct result of “doing well on the tests”. Nowhere along that modern-day cursus honorum has anyone actually looked at the question of whether or not this wunnerful creature that does so well on the tests actually has the common sense and wit to come in out of the rain…

    My argument on all of this stuff is not so much that IQ tests are not meaningful, but that the system relies on them far, far too much. There’s no injection of reality, of cause and effect for most of the “does really well on the tests” class of people. No consequences for failure, no consequences for much of anything. They go from failure to failure and nobody ever calls them on it, because “they did well on all the tests”.

    Note where that Anheuser-Busch marketing exec wound up, and how she got her job in the first place. She’ll never suffer for the poor decisions she made, just like those EPA executives that killed a thousand miles of Colorado rivers.

    It’s the mentality behind all these things, the idea that if you do well on the tests, that means something, everything.

    They never, ever look at real world performances the test-takers and say “Yeah, look… I know you have great scores, but… Dude, your work-product is utter shiite…”

    Which they are, oftentimes. The only reason that the system hasn’t ground to a total and utter halt over the things this lot of “managers” has gotten up to stems from the fact that there are just enough really competent people that also get through the winnowing process to make it look like it’s all working. Sorta. Kinda. For a given value of “working”.

    The problem we have isn’t in the testing. The problem we have is in how we’ve allowed the test to warp the process of determining merit. I’m a person who does well on tests, all tests, any tests… There’s no injection, anywhere, of reality. You do well on the tests? People will say “Oh, that’s John, he’s super-smart…” and then stand in awe as you massively cock-up all sorts of things, which they will then excuse because “brilliant”.

    This is the same sort of legerdemain that enabled Frank Lloyd Wright and all the others like him to get away with murder. Did well on all the tests, managed to flim-flam everyone around him and all kinds of people bought into his designs. Which have proven to be unlivable, unbuildable, and entirely unfit for purpose. He was an early precursor.

    So, too with Elizabeth Holmes. All kinds of extensively tested and certificated dolts bought her bullshit, investing millions. I have a friend who’s a bloodwork tech with an associates degree in the testing arena, who took one look at the prospectus for that BS and immediately laughed her ass off, saying it was patently impossible to do those tests the way that Theranos claimed they were. She wasn’t a certified genius like all the various celebrity board members Holmes pulled in, but she knew better.

    Good scores get you places, places where you can “succeed” in life, and never have to demonstrate any actual smarts or real intelligence. Holmes would be a perfect exemplar: All hat, no cattle as one of my Texas friends would put it.

    My thoughts on IQ aren’t that there are not some utilitarian uses for the tests, but that we’ve really taken them way more seriously than we should have, and that the thing they’re measuring isn’t a form of usable workmanlike definition of actual intelligence, but more a measure of a form of functioning autism.

    I’ve known a bunch of people with super-high IQ scores. Of that lot, I can only think of a few that I’d truly term being possessed of “practical intelligence” in that they can solve problems creatively while in the moment of the problem they face.

    The rest are just really good at abstractions and processing information at their leisure. Which is a usable thing, but not something that really justifies all the hype, either.

  • Zerren Yeoville

    Is in not odd that all those people who have pounced gleefully on this story as if it were manna from heaven for confirming their own pre-existing prejudices, tend to be of the same ideological bent that threw a massive wobbly thirty-odd years ago when Charles Murray published The Bell Curve?

  • Colli

    Alternatively, could it be that “life-success” correlates well with “high IQ test scores” because those scores turn into a self-licking ice-cream cone of cause and effect: Do well on them, and you’re tracked into better, more thorough instruction that tracks you into still more advanced classes and positions. When the system finally spits you out, after tertiary education, you’re slipped right into some nifty job that pays really, really well…

    That might be correct if IQ tests were used to put people through or reject people from tertiary education or to decide to hire them, but they aren’t. Other measures are used which are (or should be, but that is another question) appropriate for whatever the test is being used for. Success on these tests may be correlated with high scores on IQ tests… but that is the point.

  • Kirk

    Colli: That’s so much BS, and you know it.

    I’ve seen that whole thing working out with all the standardized tests throughout schooling, starting with the assessment tests they give in grade school. Yeah, they’re not formally called IQ tests, but they’re serving the same functionality and are built on the same techniques and assumptions. Woe to the poor kid who has dyslexia or other intellectual disability and doesn’t get identified early on.

    The whole deal is based on IQ test assumptions, all the way along the line. They categorize their subjects, they track them, and they use those scores in the classroom to create self-fulfilling prophecies of intellectual capacity. Seen it happen, way too many times.

    Even the military does it, with its version of IQ testing, the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB. I had a kid working for me who was a mechanical genius… This guy could diagnose an engine’s issues just by listening to it run for a few minutes, and then he’d usually be able to fix it faster than our school-trained mechanics. But… He wasn’t a mechanic. Why? Because his test scores on the ASVAB for that job were too low. He’d joined the Army in the first place to get the money for a civilian diesel technician school, but none of that mattered to the Army, he wasn’t suitable for use as a military mechanic… Test scores, see?

    As a general rule, the tests can be valid. But, that’s across entire damn populations, not individuals. Applying them the way we do is insane, and we’ve warped our entire society around this idea of “doing well on the tests”, with the theory being that high test scores, higher virtue. Which ain’t the case, judging from the crap these certified “geniuses” have churned out.

    Whatever the tests are measuring, it ain’t either wisdom or common sense. What it is measuring, I would speculate, is a sort of detached abstract ability that can, emphasis on can, have a role in social success across societies. Provided that the individuals in question also have the other two qualities.

    This whole thing reminds me of the way they decided that “whole language” was a better means of teaching reading than phonics. They went out, looked at the kids who were really good readers, and saw that they had implemented most of the speed reading techniques they try teaching adults, like whole word recognition and the rest. They then tried applying that to teaching all the kids, not recognizing that they were trying to force the advanced reader’s shortcuts on everyone else, who weren’t ready for it all.

    Some people who do well on the tests are brilliant and successful. This is a fact; it is also a fact that there are a bunch of MENSA types who’re miserable, having been told all their lives that they were brilliant and should be successful, but because they lack the other components necessary for success, they’ve made complete hashes of their lives. The intelligence factor isn’t what made them succeed or fail; there’s something else going on, and for us to keep telling people that IQ testing and all the supporting bullshit that the concept has enabled in society truly means something? It’s sheer insanity.

    I would be one of the first people to argue for the idea, if only because it’d be in my own self-interest as someone who does really, really well on tests. Hell, I’ve passed tests with flying colors on subjects I’ve never even studied. I do pretty well on anything abstract, but here’s the deal: Even though this is the case, I’ve run into situations time and time again in my life where none of that has had the slightest meaning or impact. Real life is not the test or the class; real life is nasty, brutish, and tends to be really short when you go into problems thinking “Yeah, I got this… I’m a smart guy…” The reality is that there are different sorts of intelligence, and that which we test on paper in a classroom quite often ain’t what I’d describe as likely to “enhance survival chances”.

    I’ve also seen way too many people who had a different sort of worldview and intelligence sidetracked because they didn’t fit into the square hole they had everyone trying to pound them into. Most of those folks were a hell of a lot smarter than anyone gave them credit for, and I refuse to participate in denigrating them because they didn’t do well on a test in some classroom somewhere. Could you feed yourself, if someone were to drop you into a Louisiana swamp, a hundred miles from civilization? Would you know what to do, how to deal with the challenges? Does that make you stupid, because you fail to survive that? Should we mock you, because you did?

    That’s the exact moral equivalent of what all these “brights” are doing with those who they imagine to be their intellectual inferiors. The reality is, they’ve just built the modern world up to suit them, as high IQ types. And, the other reality? They’re not really all that smart, when it comes to a hell of a lot of things…

  • Jim

    “The reality is, they’ve just built the modern world up to suit them, as high IQ types.”

    I have said for ages that IMO there are two basic strands to intelligence – the ability to manipulate ideas/data, and the ability to manipulate reality (practical skills). There is some correlation between the two but not a huge amount – there will be very intellectual types who struggle to tie their own shoelaces, and there will be people who can knock up a mean wooden house but would struggle to solve 2x-3=3. And for a person to be suitable to be a leader (of anything from a small team of people to an entire country) you need balance between the two. The further up the responsibility scale you go the more of both skills you need. The best person to lead a country would be someone who could get a first in Latin at Oxford and also be able to build his own house from scratch.

    However we select our leaders throughout society purely from the ‘able to manipulate data/ideas’ pile. As a result we get many who are utterly impractical, and their judgement consequently suffers, because their intellect is not tempered by experience of reality. What sounds like a great plan to an intellectual can be seen (correctly) as utterly flawed by a man of average IQ but a practical nature.

    Much of the problem in Western society can be put down to the denigration of the practical and the over elevation of the intellectual. We shove the former into different schools, and low paid roles with little leadership responsibility and select our elites only from the latter. Society would be far better run by people of moderately above average IQ with slightly above average practical skills, rather than very high IQ types with zero practical nature.

    I also happen to think that practical skills are a good test for narcissism, as practical skills have a pretty rapid feedback mechanism. You can’t BS people that you are a great bricklayer if your walls keep falling down. So by selecting for leaders with practical skills you would keep a large proportion of the narcissists who infest politics out of the game, which alone would be a great improvement.

  • bobby b

    IQ is like RAM, counting both capacity and speed. Everything else is the software that you run on your brain/computer. All experiences and learning, rewards and pain from doing or not doing things, the importance of morals – that all combines into the software running through the RAM.

    You need both. The best people are very bright (IQ) and have learned much from life that’s helpful. The most brilliant (IQ) person in the world with no learning is useless. But nowadays, they’re also in charge.

  • Colli

    We know that the tests required to become an engineer, or a chemist, or a gender studies professor or any other profession do not just test IQ, otherwise two people with the same IQ would find it equally difficult to enter one of these professions, regardless of their background. I would say that the tests must also test, for instance, some set of skills.

    I think I agree with you that what should be tested is the set of skills required for the profession (instead of general intelligence, unless that is a skill required). Assuming this were the case though, those with higher IQs would still do better on the tests than those with lower IQs (assuming an equal desire to learn), because they learn more quickly. So it would still test general intelligence to some extent, but by the proxy of how well a person has learned some set of skills. So even if the tests did actually measure how well you would perform in some profession, a higher IQ would still be correlated with success, especially since jobs which offer higher chances of success are attractive, and mean that everyone (including those with high IQs) has a greater desire to learn the skills required.

    I don’t think that the correlation of IQ with success can be solely attributed to having to pass certain tests which effectively measure IQ per se in order to be successful.