Globe and Mail Blog
February 3, 2012 Researchers have found a possible explanation for why certain people are prejudiced: they’re less intelligent.
Children with lower general intelligence are more likely to become prejudiced as adults, according to a Brock University study.
The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, examined data from two large-scale British studies, and found lower intelligence scores in childhood were predictors of greater racism in adulthood, which the researchers controversially explain is brought about by adopting right-wing ideologies.
A secondary analysis of data from a U.S. study also showed those with poor abstract-reasoning skills were more likely to have anti-homosexual prejudice, partially linked to authoritarian attitudes.
Lead researcher Gordon Hodson told LiveScience that the results of the study indicate a vicious cycle, in which people with low intelligence are drawn to socially conservative ideologies. In turn, those ideologies can contribute to prejudices.
“Socially conservative ideologies tend to offer structure and order,” he said, explaining why those with lower intelligence may gravitate toward the right. “Unfortunately, many of these features can contribute to prejudice.”
The researchers found that people with lower intelligence also tended to have less contact with other races and groups, which, Dr. Hodson said, supports previous research that determined interacting with other groups is mentally challenging and cognitively draining.
Dr. Hodson explained the findings do not mean all liberals are smart and all conservatives are stupid, LiveScience.com reports. “There are multiple examples of very bright conservatives and not-so-bright liberals, and many examples of very principled conservatives and very intolerant liberals,” he said.
Previous research has suggested that the brains of conservatives and liberals are wired differently.