The study, published in Psychological Science, showed that people who score low on I.Q. tests in childhood are more likely to develop prejudiced beliefs and socially conservative politics in adulthood.
I.Q., or intelligence quotient, is a score determined by standardized tests, but whether the tests truly reveal intelligence remains a topic of hot debate among psychologists.
Dr. Gordon Hodson, a professor of psychology at the university and the study’s lead author, said the finding represented evidence of a vicious cycle: People of low intelligence gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies, which stress resistance to change and, in turn, prejudice, he told LiveScience.
Why might less intelligent people be drawn to conservative ideologies? Because such ideologies feature “structure and order” that make it easier to comprehend a complicated world, Dodson said. “Unfortunately, many of these features can also contribute to prejudice,” he added.
Dr. Brian Nosek, a University of Virginia psychologist, echoed those sentiments.
“Reality is complicated and messy,” he told The Huffington Post in an email. “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.”
But Nosek said less intelligent types might be attracted to liberal “simplifying ideologies” as well as conservative ones.
In any case, the study has taken the Internet by storm, with some outspoken liberals saying that it validates their suspicions about conservatives and conservatives arguing that the research has been misinterpreted.