Intelligence Makes People Think Like Economists: Further Evidence
By Bryan Caplan
Caplan and Miller’s finding that “intelligence makes people think like economists” (published in 2010, but largely written in 2006) is holding up well. A mini literature review, courtesy of Duarte, Crawford, Stern, Haidt, Jussim, and Tetlock:
[T[he observed relationship between intelligence and conservatism largely depends on how conservatism is operationalized. Social conservatism correlates with lower cognitive ability test scores, but economic conservatism correlates with higher scores (Iyer, Koleva, Graham, Ditto, & Haidt, 2012; Kemmelmeier 2008). Similarly, Feldman and Johnston (2014) find in multiple nationally representative samples that social conservatism negatively predicted educational attainment, whereas economic conservatism positively predicted educational attainment. Together, these results likely explain why both Heaven et al. (2011) and Hodson and Busseri (2012) found a negative correlation between IQ and conservatism–because “conservatism” was operationalized as Right-Wing Authoritarianism, which is more strongly related to social than economic conservatism (van Hiel et al., 2004). In fact, Carl (2014) found that Republicans have higher mean verbal intelligence (up to 5.48 IQ points equivalent, when covariates are excluded), and this effect is driven by economic conservatism (which, as a European, he called economic liberalism, because of its emphasis on free markets). Carl suggests that libertarian Republicans overpower the negative correlation between social conservatism and verbal intelligence, to yield the aggregate mean advantage for Republicans. Moreover, the largest political effect in Kemmelmeier’s (2008) study was the positive correlation between anti-regulation views and SAT-V scores, where β = .117, p < .001 (by comparison, the regression coefficient for conservatism was β = −.088, p < .01, and for being African American, β = −.169, p < .001).
Carl, N. (2014). Verbal intelligence is correlated with socially and economically liberal beliefs. Intelligence, 44, 142-148.
Feldman, S., & Johnston, C. (2014). Understanding the determinants of political ideology: Implications of structural complexity. Political Psychology, 35(3), 337-358.
Heaven, P. C., Ciarrochi, J., & Leeson, P. (2011). Cognitive ability, right-wing authoritarianism, and social dominance orientation: A five-year longitudinal study amongst adolescents. Intelligence, 39(1), 15-21.
Hodson, G., & Busseri, M. A. (2012). Bright minds and dark attitudes: Lower cognitive ability predicts greater prejudice through right-wing ideology and low intergroup contact. Psychological Science, 23(2), 187-195.
Kemmelmeier, M. (2008). Is there a relationship between political orientation and cognitive ability? A test of three hypotheses in two studies. Personality and Individual Differences, 45, 767-772.
Iyer, R., Koleva, S., Graham, J., Ditto, P., & Haidt, J. (2012). Understanding libertarian morality: The psychological dispositions of self-identified libertarians. PLoS ONE 7(8): e42366. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0042366
Van Hiel, A., Pandelaere, M., & Duriez, B. (2004). The impact of need for closure on conservative beliefs and racism: Differential mediation by authoritarian submission and authoritarian dominance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30(7), 824-837.
To counter my confirmation bias, please post contrary cites in the comments.