Have you ever heard the oft-repeated popular adage that “liberals generally have higher IQs (on average) than conservatives?” Personal experience may anecdotally render this assertion inert for a large number of right-leaning people, but there are some studies that at least suggest this might be true. Remember, these studies are not saying that all liberals are smarter than all conservatives — just on the average — and there are certainly great geniuses of history who would be considered conservative thinkers (i.e. a huge majority of the founders of America). But still … this just doesn’t sit right. I mean, if liberals are smarter, why do they hold some of the most absurd beliefs imaginable?
The intuition (for me at least) to discount this finding would be primarily based on experience with the left’s general disregard for (and lack of understanding of) economic systems, wrapped around their endless advocacy of Marxist paradigms. The zeal with which they strive toward a demonstrably awful utopian vision (socialism / communism) based, not on evidence or reason, but on emotionalism and romanticized wishful thinking, fosters a significant degree of doubt regarding the holistic worth of their cognitive abilities.
But what if it is true? The past history of the MANY, MANY attempts of governments and societies going all in to achieve the Marxist vision is awash with genocide, starvation, economic disaster, violence, poverty, and general terribleness — and yet they still continue to pursue this madness. Why?
Bruce Charlton, a medical doctor, former professor of Theoretical Medicine at the University of Buckingham and current professor of Evolutionary Psychiatry at Newcastle University in England, believes that the novelty seeking behavior of high-IQ individuals may be the culprit.
This phenomenon, which accompanies the over-use of abstract reasoning, can override long developed social intelligence systems in humans; causing undisciplined minds, with greater capacity for said reasoning, to oft-abandon what normal people refer to as “common sense.” As written in the Medical Hypotheses journal:
“…the greater cognitive ability of higher IQ is also accompanied by a somewhat distinctive high IQ personality type. My suggested explanation for this association is that an increasing level of IQ brings with it an increased tendency to use general intelligence in problem-solving; i.e. to over-ride those instinctive and spontaneous forms of evolved behavior which could be termed common sense.
The over-use of abstract reasoning may be most obvious in the social domain, where normal humans are richly equipped with evolved psychological mechanisms both for here-and-now interactions (e.g. rapidly reading emotions from facial expression, gesture and posture, and speech intonation) and for ‘strategic’ modelling of social interactions to understand predict and manipulate the behavior of others. Social strategies deploy inferred knowledge about the dispositions, motivations and intentions of others. When the most intelligent people over-ride the social intelligence systems and apply generic, abstract and systematic reasoning of the kind which is enhanced among higher IQ people, they are ignoring an ‘expert system’ in favor of a non-expert system.” – Bruce Charlton, MD
Dr. Charlton believes that people with high IQ’s benefit from the additional utility afforded them by their increased cognitive prowess, but are also (in many cases) afflicted with a “high IQ personality.” This personality type is often accompanied by what he terms the “Openess” trait; a proclivity which may explain why very intelligent people can oft hold beliefs at least equally absurd as those with far less intelligence.
I suggest that higher levels of the personality trait of Openness in higher IQ people may the flip-side of this over-use of abstraction. I regard Openness as the result of deploying abstract analysis for social problems to yield unstable and unpredictable results, when innate social intelligence would tend to yield predictable and stable results. This might plausibly underlie the tendency of the most intelligent people in modernizing societies to hold ‘left-wing’ political views.
Applying abstract analysis to social situations might be seen as ‘creative’, and indeed Openness has been put forward as the major personality trait which supports creativity. This is reasonable in the sense that an intellectual high in Openness would be likely to disregard common sense, and to generate multiple, unpredictable and unfamiliar answers to evolutionarily-familiar problems which would only yield a single ‘obvious’ solution to those who deployed evolved modes of intelligence. However, I would instead argue that a high IQ person applying abstract systemizing intelligence to activities which are more usually done by instinctive intelligence is not a truly ‘creative’ process.
Instead, following Eysenck, I would regard true psychological creativity as primarily an associative activity which Eysenck includes as part of the trait Psychoticism; cognitively akin to the ‘primary process’ thinking of sleep, delirium and psychotic illness. A major difference between these two concepts of creativity is that while ‘Openness creativity’ is abstract, coolly-impartial and as if driven by novelty-seeking (neophilia); ‘Psychoticism creativity’ is validated by emotions: such that the high-Psychoticism creative person is guided by their emotional responses to their own creative production. – Bruce Charlton, MD
Since western society is long past the days of hereditary rule, and has become, in many cases a meritocracy stratified by various levels of IQ, Dr. Charlton believes that certain beliefs generated as a result of the “Psychoticism creativity” associated with the “high-IQ personality” have become entrenched in the upper echelons; creating a toxic group-think culture of high-IQ societal norms.
My hunch is that it is this kind of IQ-advertisement which has led to the most intelligent people in modern societies having ideas about social phenomena that are not just randomly incorrect (due to inappropriately misapplying abstract analysis) but are systematically wrong. I am talking of the phenomenon known as political correctness (PC) in which foolish and false ideas have become moralistically-enforced among the ruling intellectual elite. And these ideas have invaded academic, political and social discourse. Because while the stereotypical nutty professor in the hard sciences is a brilliant scientist but silly about everything else; the stereotypical nutty professor social scientist or humanities professor is not just silly about ‘everything else’, but also silly in their professional work. – Bruce Charlton, MD
What do you think? Is Charlton correct? Perhaps another well known adage is also applicable here: “there is a thin line between genius and madness.” Let us know your thoughts on this issue by visiting us on Facebook or in the comments below.