Thursday, May 28, 2009

Kind Of Suspected As Much...

This is an excerpt from the abstract of an article published in the latest volume of the journal Intelligence -- which is precisely what it sounds like: a scientific journal for publication of articles on research into the nature of intelligence. It's a real-live peer-reviewed scientific journal, and has a pretty reasonable reputation from what I can glean.

The excerpt:

Conservatism and cognitive ability are negatively correlated. The evidence is based on 1254 community college students and 1600 foreign students seeking entry to United States' universities. At the individual level of analysis, conservatism scores correlate negatively with SAT, Vocabulary, and Analogy test scores. At the national level of analysis, conservatism scores correlate negatively with measures of education (e.g., gross enrollment at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels) and performance on mathematics and reading assessments from the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) project.

The full article is not accessible without pay, and to be honest, I'm not that interested. The level of debate it might provoke is almost certain to dive down to subterranean levels within picoseconds. And certainly, without being able to read the article in full I have no idea what their definitions of 'Conservatism' include, nor the degree of negative correlation, nor the statistical approaches used.

I do note the sample size is pretty decent, and the use of college students and foreign-entry students pretty well rules out this being a sample of down-home Cletus the Yokel types. Of course, going through community colleges is an interesting choice, and naturally one has to wonder what kind of stats you'd get in the Ivy Leagues and so forth. Nevertheless, it's a bold, interesting statement -- all the more interesting since it appears to originate from notoriously-conservative Singapore.

I also wonder, naturally, what would happen if they broke the picture down to differentiate between fiscal conservatism and social conservatism. I certainly see a difference there, at any rate.

In any case, it's worth a laugh, eh? No doubt it's all part of that infamous world-wide conspiracy of left-wing acadaemia...


  1. Looks to be a slightly Michael Mouse psych journal, impact factor under three (OK for a journal in a highly specific field, but not widely penetrative). Still interesting correlation though (though correlation isn't causation.) Got the article if you're interested. Looks like a reasonably complicated matrix of largely social indicators was used to determine conservatism:

    "In our work, conservatism is captured by a score — usually a factor score — obtained from several scales that were not developed specifically for the measurement of conservatism. Thus, it incorporates measures of Personality (Big Five from IPIP), Social Attitudes ([Saucier, 2000] and [Stankov and Knežević, 2005]), Values (Schwartz and Bardi, 2001 S.H. Schwartz and A. Bardi, Value hierarchies across cultures: Taking a similarities perspective, Journal of Cross Cultural Psychology 32 (2001), pp. 268–290. Full Text via CrossRef | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus (134)Schwartz & Bardi, 2001), and Social Norms (GLOBE; House, Hanges, Javidan, Dorfman, & Gupta, 2004) — a total of 43 different subscale scores. Nevertheless, our analyses show the presence of a factor of Conservatism that has loadings from subscales from all these domains and captures many constructs that are included in the nomological net of Jost et al. (2003) and Wilson (1973). This factor is expected to correlate with cognitive ability for reasons outlined above."

  2. Well -- it would surprise the hell out of me if adopting conservatism actually CAUSED a drop in IQ. Although... you know... too much listening to John Laws would HAVE to make you stupid, wouldn't it?

  3. I think its got a lot more to do with WEED, grog and having a grip thats perhaps too tight.

    Although, I find your little note on fiscal V social rather interesting.

    So at the risk of making a complete ass of myself here goes.

    Fiscal: Risk associated with injecting large sums of gummit funds, mostly borrowed into a lagging economy is dangerous, these should be set aside as a provision for later capital growth projects once the free market has corrected itself. An interventionist role, is perhaps not what we should be undertaking in the market. But given the rate at which funds can be borrowed, is it not a more opportune time to access these.

    Yet: Socially: I believe its the females right to choose, gummit should provide a social safety net and for certain crimes the death penalty should be returned. The wholsale removal of firearms does not in its own right make us safer, the Military at its current levels should be expanded and see a greater injection of funds. Students in some format should all do service.

    Would they be competing views under the current proposal?.

  4. Who's proposing anything?

    Seriously... I think there really is a distinction between fiscal and social conservatism, but even with the good doc's update, I can't really determine whether the people who wrote this article made that distinction or not. I don't really care, either, to be honest. I was moved to chuckle when I found the original reference, and I thought I'd share the laugh.

  5. Dirk, did you mean something like the distinctions in the political compass? I'm not sure that it's that much less clumsy that left/right, though adding axes makes it hard to represent things graphically. From the above it looks more like the authors of the study are considering liberal/conservative as more of an aspect of personality, tribalism or in-group behavior and are not trying to represent actual political positions in a granular way.

    It looks like my employer doesn't subscribe to that journal, which figures. We do have a lab called 'Molecular Psychiatry' whose research area is still a mystery to me, but I suspect in general we're just too hard-nosed for this sort of namby-pamby stuff. Presumably UQ has it but I'm not arsed enough to go looking with Mrs Damian's credentials.

  6. that you did, not only did we have a laugh and go...WTF, spastic was the first thought to mind, and when I thought about it some more, I sorter came to the belief that there is a distinction. Many might call me wrong. But I suspect somebody has too much spare time and cash..given the study. Bloody hell.

  7. Something tells me that they haven't controlled for some spurious relationship.

    The Singapore angle is interesting though. My Research Methods lecturer recently explained how, when he was lecturing at NUS, there was an article in the Straits Times that said that Muslims and non-Muslims from Singapore had identical views on the war on terror. It argued that Muslims were (from memory) 60% in favour and non-Muslims (again from mem) 72% in favour and that this was virtually the same. Anyway, he did a chi-squared test to show that the groups were statistically significantly different in their views on the war on terror. When he presented the paper at a conference in Singapore, the criticism wasn't of his methods, but that he dared to test such a divisive issue (despite it being a test of a 'study' already undertaken by the ST). What he didn't count on was how much of a mouthpiece for the government the ST is and how quickly they come down on dissent there.

    He doesn't teach in Singapore anymore.

  8. I'm kind of dubious about just what the purpose of such research actually is. A lot of psych stuff I can certainly see the reason behind it, but research into co-relationships between certain political views and intelligence sounds to me like someone's trying to prove a political point.

    You also have huge national differences in definitions of political ideology. A firm NZ conservative I know, an activist for our National Party (rather like your Liberals) recently did a US based political ideology test and came out as extremely left wing.

    As you say, its the social/fiscal thing, which in the US goes to a whole different level with the Levitican faction's growing power.

  9. Actually, Rob -- Damian raises a good point when he suggests that they are probably far less interested in conservatism as a political stance than in 'conservative mind-set' as defined for purposes of psychology.

  10. Hmm just think of all those bright young komonsol activists who became nuclear physacist's in the CCCP.

    Nah i think it's crap but still funny.

  11. (Lost me at hello) though I find any study a virtual opening of a door (my door being open a mere crack).
    "Oh--the same!"


    I came- I saw- I left my greetings from Canada.