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COGNITION: CORRELATION AND CAUSE February 9, 2012

Posted by wmmbb in Growth, Social Environment.
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What explanatory power, if any, does the research findings have that people with less cognitive skills than average are more likely to be prejudiced against others and to be attracted to conservative belief systems?

Could it be, for example, that such people are subject to greater social pressure than others, and if those pressures could be reduced prejudice would be lessened? Scapegoating is more likely in times of economic distress, and there are historical examples of inducing such responses as a deliberate policy. Empathy requires perhaps a measure of cognitive adroitness and discernment, and in its absence violence and viciousness are likely to prevail, hence that characteristic of conservative social policy that is so beneficial to the privileged.

George Monbiot, reports in The Guardian:

There is plenty of research showing that low general intelligence in childhood predicts greater prejudice towards people of different ethnicity or sexuality in adulthood. Open-mindedness, flexibility, trust in other people: all these require certain cognitive abilities. Understanding and accepting others – particularly “different” others – requires an enhanced capacity for abstract thinking.

But, drawing on a sample size of several thousand, correcting for both education and socioeconomic status, the new study looks embarrassingly robust. Importantly, it shows that prejudice tends not to arise directly from low intelligence but from the conservative ideologies to which people of low intelligence are drawn. Conservative ideology is the “critical pathway” from low intelligence to racism. Those with low cognitive abilities are attracted to “rightwing ideologies that promote coherence and order” and “emphasize the maintenance of the status quo”. Even for someone not yet renowned for liberal reticence, this feels hard to write.

Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian discuss the results:

Rant:

My sympathy is with the people who measured with low intelligence quotients. I feel these measurements are dehumanizing. People are not isolated objects but social beings. For people so cast, they might be expected to feel and show resentment. IQ tests, as presently framed, are a form of structural violence. Instead of stigmatizing people, especially young persons of eleven years of age, we should look for pathways for expressing their humanity and their innate abilities.

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