Gordon Hodson, a psychologist at Brock University in Ontario, Canada, served as lead researcher for a study that had some not so surprising results. According to his team’s findings, there is a significant positive correlation between prejudice, low intelligence, and social conservative ideology, reports LiveScience.
Not only are children with low IQs more likely to be prejudiced adults, Hodson uncovered a hidden bias that exposes the relationship between prejudice and conservatives:
The research finds that children with low intelligence are more likely to hold prejudiced attitudes as adults. These findings point to a vicious cycle. Low-intelligence adults tend to gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies, the study found. Those ideologies, in turn, stress hierarchy and resistance to change, attitudes that can contribute to prejudice, Hodson wrote in an e-mail to LiveScience.
Prejudice is extremely complex and multifaceted, making it critical that any factors contributing to bias are uncovered and understood.
Briain Nosek, a social and cognitive psychologist at the University of Virginia, believes that this study will trigger a storm of controversy:
They’ve pulled off the trifecta of controversial topics, said Brian Nosek, a social and cognitive psychologist at the University of Virginia who was not involved in the study. When one selects intelligence, political ideology, and racism and looks at any of the relationships between those three variables, it’s bound to upset somebody.
Interestingly, politics seemed to be the connecting force between “brains” and “bias.” The study found that the inability of children with low intelligence to understand and empathize with the perspective of others — especially those of different ethnicity and class — was a clear indication that they would embrace right-wing ideology:
Polling data and social and political science research do show that prejudice is more common in those who hold right-wing ideals that those of other political persuasions. The unique contribution here is trying to make some progress on the most challenging aspect of this,” Nosek said, referring to the new study. It’s not that a relationship like that exists, but why it exists.
The working definition for “social conservatives” for this study’s purposes relied upon participants’ agreement with statements such as:
‘Family life suffers if mum is working full-time,’ and ‘Schools should teach children to obey authority.’ Attitudes toward other races were captured by measuring agreement with statements such as, ‘I wouldn’t mind working with people from other races.’
Hodson is very clear that he doesn’t want people to think that he is characterizing all conservatives as unintelligent. He points to the example of men, in general, being taller than women — though there are some women who are taller than men — as evidence of the generality of the study.
My speculation is that it’s not as simple as their model presents it, Nosek said. I think that lower cognitive capacity can lead to multiple simple ways to represent the world, and one of those can be embodied in a right-wing ideology where ‘people I don’t know are threats’ and ‘the world is a dangerous place‘. … Another simple way would be to just assume everybody is wonderful.
In simplified terms for any conservatives that may be reading, this study seems to prove the popular wisdom that all Republicans may not be racists, but all racists are more than likely Republican.
It also begs the question, since many Democrats of color are social conservatives: Are their political perspectives also informed by prejudice — as this study suggests — or religion?
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