According to a new study, people with both high and low intelligence are prejudiced—the difference is just who they are prejudiced against.
Past researchers have found that people of lower cognitive ability are more likely to be prejudiced, but prejudice isn’t exclusive to dim bulbs. A new study from Tilburg University, published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, has found that where we direct our prejudice may have to do with our overall intelligence.
The researchers, social psychologists Mark Brandt and Jarret Crawford, analyzed 5,914 subjects in their experiment, “Answering Unresolved Questions About the Relationship Between Cognitive Ability and Prejudice.” Removing value judgments about whether a specific prejudice is justified or not, they measured the amount of prejudice present in groups of higher cognitive ability and lower cognitive ability.
They gauged the cognitive ability of their subjects using a wordsum test, which is considered to be correlated to an individual’s intelligence quotient (IQ). Brandt and Crawford replicated previous findings that people of low cognitive ability tend to be prejudiced against non-conventional or liberal groups, as well as groups that have “low choice” in their status—groups defined by their race or gender, for example. According to their research, this tendency inverted among people of high cognitive ability. In other words, the smarter subjects in their study were likely to be prejudiced against groups considered conventional or conservative—groups perceived to have “high choice” in their associations.”
“People dislike people who are different from them,” Brandt and Crawford said in an interview with Broadly. “Derogating people with different worldviews can help people maintain the validity of their own world view.” In other words, if you see the world one way, you may rely on that perspective, so you might reinforce the idea that you’re right by believing other worldviews are wrong.
Brandt and Crawford referenced previous research that has shown that less intelligent people often essentialize or see different groups as being distinct from each other with clear boundaries and less of a threat.
“On the flipside, people high in cognitive ability express more prejudice against high-choice [conservative] groups,” Brandt and Crawford said. “They may be especially angered by groups that they think they should be able to change their minds.”
By Diana Tourjée for Broadly Vice