Racism and Conservatism Linked to Intelligence?

One of the top stories on HuffingtonPost recently was an article entitled Intelligence Study Links Low I.Q. To Prejudice, Racism, Conservatism . Of course, this grabbed my attention so I took a look. Basically, a recent study , published in the journal Psychological Science , found that people who had lower IQs during childhood were more likely to hold racist/bigoted beliefs, as well as lean more conservatively, later in life. Obviously, this is a very controversial study which will surely anger many people. However, while I find the results to be quite interesting, I would also think they are fairly common sense. Intolerance of certain groups nearly always stems from either fear or ignorance. Bigots will avoid Muslims because they are afraid of them, or discriminate against homosexuals because they don’t understand the science and biology of sexual orientation. Therefore, it would seem to make sense that those who are less intelligent (and thus, more ignorant) would be more likely to be racist or bigoted in some way.

The connection between conservatism and low IQ demands a different explanation however. The author of
the study, Dr. Gordon Hodson of Brock University in Ontario, posits that the structure and order provided by the conservative viewpoint is appealing to those with lower IQs. Dr. Brian Nosek, psychologist from the University of Virginia concurred, and wrote “Reality is complicated and messy. Ideologies get rid of the messiness and impose a simpler solution. So, it may not be surprising that people with less cognitive capacity will be attracted to simplifying ideologies.” I’m not so sure it is as simple as this. While I do agree to some extent that conservatism may be a “simplified ideology” couldn’t any ideology be inserted in there? Isn’t that the point of ideologies, to explain a way of looking at the world that makes sense? Is there something inherent to conservative thought that is especially basic and simplified? I’ll have to spend some more time thinking about this one, let me know what you all this.

While this study certainly provides insight onto these important issues (especially in an election year), Dr. Hodson, goes even farther to directly connect the ideology of conservatism to racism. He argues that since one inherent tenet of most conservative belief systems is resistance to change (hence their disdain for progressives and they constant references to the Founding Fathers) prejudice is the result. Because living in a multiracial, multicultural (and about 50 other multi-s) society means a constantly changing and progressing society, conservatives shy away from that diversity, returning to the foundation they are used to. I hope I’m not coming off as over-simplifying things, and I in no way mean to paint all conservatives or all racists with the same brush, but as a surface explanation, this does seem to make sense.


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