Are Liberals More Intelligent than Conservatives? Another Broken Study Says It Is So

It happens like clockwork. Every few years, researchers contrive yet another study to prove that conservatives are mentally deficient. This time, the attack comes from evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa in his current paper, Why Liberals and Atheists Are More Intelligent. To be fair, gunning for conservatives does not appear to be his primary motive. Instead, he seems to have tied himself in knots trying to affirm a pet theory. Either way, he has recklessly disparaged millions. The methodology is atrocious.

Truth be told, I prefer to write on other topics. But every so often, I simply reach my limit with the gratuitous abuse heaped onto conservatives by members of my profession. (Our motto: celebrate diversity!) If you are in the mood for some rich, curmudgeonly goodness, then read on. Otherwise, check out my more upbeat entries. Either way, thanks for the patronage!


Just Another Rigged “Study”

Are liberals smarter than conservatives?In psychology’s latest assault on American conservatives, evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa has determined that “very liberal” people possess nearly a 12 point IQ advantage over those who identify as “very conservative.” Not only is the hard left more intelligent than the hard right, but they are smarter than everyone else, as well – mainstream conservative, middle-of-the-road, and even mainstream liberal.

In a blog posting at the Psychology Today website, Kanazawa baldly asserted that,

“…apart from a few areas in life (such as business) where countervailing circumstances may prevail, liberals control all institutions.  They control the institutions because liberals are on average more intelligent than conservatives and thus they are more likely to attain the highest status in any area of (evolutionarily novel) modern life” (emphasis in original).

This 11.6 point IQ difference (see figure 1) is an astounding development. It is unimaginably improbable. In fact, it does not pass the smell test. There are a massive number of variables describing the American population. Dividing this population along a single variable will certainly yield some differences corresponding with that variable. Overall, however, the division will result in two or more heterogeneous groups that very much resemble the original population. Slight differences aside, the new groups will average out to be pretty average, if you’ll pardon my circularity.

Is there really an IQ difference between liberals and conservatives?

Figure 1: Kanazawa’s (2010) data reveling the intellectual superiority of very liberal people. Mean IQ for “very conservative” is 94.82. Mean IQ for “very liberal” is 106.42.

For example, suppose we divide the American population based on their preference for either football or baseball. We will probably notice some personality trends that correspond with sport preference. However, it would be astounding to discover something as profound as a 12 point IQ difference. That would be like discovering that baseball fans are, on average, six inches taller than football fans. It could be true, but results like that would require that we dismantle the research and examine its methodology from the ground up.

Ideally, that happens during the peer-review process before any study is published. Unfortunately, research that maligns conservatives seems to earn unquestioning approval in peer-reviewed psychology journals. You can be sure that any flawed study suggesting the intellectual inferiority of liberals would not see the light of day.

So how, exactly, did Kanazawa discover that “very liberal” people are smarter than the rest of us? And what prompted the study in the first place?


Searching For the Savanna Principle

Satoshi Kanazawa’s discovery is a secondary point in his most recent paper, Why Liberals and Atheists Are More Intelligent, published in the current issue of the peer-reviewed journal Social Psychology Quarterly.

Kanazawa’s main point was that intelligent people are more likely to solve “evolutionarily novel” problems. He defined these as problems that fall outside the typical daily experience of our ancestors, such as how to respond to fire caused by lightning, or what to do when a flood separates a person from his clan. According to what he calls the Savanna Principle, “The human brain has difficulty comprehending and dealing with entities and situations that did not exist in the ancestral environment.”

It’s an intriguing theory requiring evidence in contemporary humans. That’s where Kanazawa turned to politics, religion, and sex. He suggested that people who endorse liberal ideology, are atheists, or are sexually monogamous are more intelligent than their counterparts because these behaviors contradict the instincts handed down by our ancestors.

I will forego his stance on atheism and monogamy and focus on the methodology behind his assertion that liberals are more intelligent than conservatives because A) there are only so many hours in the day, and B) I seem to have taken up the cause of debunking my profession’s large collection of bogus anti-conservative literature.

If you are curious about my political outlook, I am libertarian. I tend to agree with conservative fiscal principles and liberal social principles. Given the subject matter, you have a right to know where I stand.


Data Collection

Kanazawa used existing data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (hereafter referred to as Add Health; see here and here). In the Add Health study, 20,745 adolescents were interviewed in 1994-95 (Wave I), again in 1996 (Wave II), then a third time when the participants were between the ages of 18 and 28 (Wave III). Naturally, there was some attrition along the way, but the data are solid and respectable.

The Add Health study collected a variety of data ranging from each subject’s height to their education history (see here). In demonstrating that very liberal people are the most intelligent among us, Kanazawa used two pieces of Add Health data:

  1. From Wave I, when participants were adolescents, he gathered results from the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT). He used this data to estimate each subject’s level of intelligence. This was his independent variable.
  2. From Wave III, when participants were young adults, he used responses to the question “In terms of politics, do you consider yourself conservative, liberal, or middle of the road?” Subjects were able to choose very conservative, conservative, middle of the road, liberal, or very liberal. This self-report measure was his dependent variable.

To sum up: Kanazawa compared intelligence, measured during adolescence, with political orientation, measured during young adulthood, to see if the first variable affected the second. Nothing wrong with that.

However, there are serious problems with the way he interpreted the data at both ends. First, the intelligence data, which was extrapolated from a simple vocabulary test, factored out participants unlikely to offer the desired response. Second, the political orientation data was gathered at a time when participants were most likely to offer a response that supports Kanazawa’s desired outcome.* Let’s look at each.


Intelligence: The Independent Variable and Its Broken Data

Kanazawa repeatedly refers to IQ in his paper. There’s a problem: he never measured IQ. The PPVT, at best, provides a quick and dirty estimate of verbal intelligence. It is not a test, or even an indicator, of general intelligence, despite his assertions to the contrary.

Here’s how the PPVT works. The examiner says a word, then shows the examinee four drawings. The task is to identify the drawing that goes with the word. Examinees do not need to speak during the test, they can simply point to the drawing they believe to be correct. The test takes about 20 minutes to administer and score. It is rather perfunctory, as verbal tests go.

According to the publisher of the PPVT, the current version boasts a .91 correlation with the Verbal Intelligence Quotient (VIQ) of the WISC-III. Translation: a kid’s score on the quick and dirty PPVT will probably be close to the score that child would obtain on one portion of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC).

What is the WISC, you ask? It is a gold-standard intelligence test for children up to the age of 16. It consists of 15 subtests that combine to provide scores for verbal comprehension, perceptual reasoning, processing speed, and working memory. These scores can be combined to generate a single IQ score, provided there isn’t too much spread between them.

The WISC and the PPVT serve different purposes. They are not comparable (see figure 2). The PPVT, in its entirety, is roughly proportionate to one of the 15 WISC subtests.

WISC subtests versus PPVT

Figure 2: Domains and specific subtests of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children and the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test.

When psychologists speak about IQ, they typically break it into two major components: verbal intelligence (VIQ) and performance intelligence (PIQ). PIQ refers to abilities like spatial reasoning that cannot be measured by verbal tests, and certainly are not captured by the PPVT.

And this is where we encounter a major problem with Kanazawa’s data. By using a study that measures only verbal ability (and very little of it), he is ignoring PIQ altogether. A child whose PIQ is higher than his or her VIQ – a common occurrence – is effectively tossed out of the pool of “more intelligent” people. That skews the data in favor of Kanazawa’s hypothesis.

It is commonly accepted that children who excel on verbal scales are likelier to succeed in school than those who do not. Children who have high VIQ scores, and therefore perform well in school, are likelier than their verbally challenged classmates to go to college. It is common among the highly educated for VIQ to be significantly higher than PIQ (see for example Kaufman & Lichtenberger, 1999).

Moreover, children who struggle with VIQ but who have perfectly solid PIQ scores are more likely than their counterparts to drop out of school (Romi & Marom, 2007). That does not make them unintelligent, but simply intellectually mismatched for a word-based academic environment. These children may even be more intelligent, on balance, than their classmates.

Kanazawa’s measure of intelligence is skewing the data in favor of children who are the likeliest to go to college, even though they may not be more intelligent when all abilities are taken into account. In the next section, I’ll describe the ramifications to the dependent variable.

Lest you think this is a minor point, VIQ-PIQ discrepancies are more common than not, and they run in both directions. In fact, this discrepancy is one of the first and most important statistics that psychologists calculate when scoring an IQ test.

VIQ-PIQ discrepancies

Figure 3. VIQ-PIQ discrepancy base rates, from Hsu et al. (2000). Emphasis added to highlight the Normal IQ range.

How common is it? Hsu et al. reported that 45.5 percent of the population within the Average IQ range display a VIQ-PIQ discrepancy of 9 points or more. Scoring manuals, such as that for the Wechsler Adult Intelligent Scale-III (p. 207) corroborate. It reports that 42.7 percent of the population display a nine-point difference, and the mean difference across IQ scores is 8.6.

By relying on a test that merely approximates VIQ, Kanazawa ignored a major component of intelligence and hopelessly tainted his data. Had he instead tested subjects’ ability to rebuild a carburetor, he would have arrived at a different (and equally flawed) pool of “more intelligent” people. Instead, his definition of “more intelligent” is biased toward those with relatively higher VIQs and away from people with relatively higher PIQs.

rigged IQ test

Presumed Correlation

Poisoning the data even further, Kanazawa interpreted the PPVT as a measure of general intelligence while openly acknowledging that “the PPVT is properly a measure of verbal intelligence, not general intelligence.”

Even that much is debatable. Sadock & Sadock’s (2003, p. 191) Synopsis of Psychiatry classifies the PPVT as a test of one-word receptive and expressive language – not verbal intelligence, and certainly not general intelligence. In my experience, most clinical psychologists regard the PPVT as little more than a screening tool.

At best, one can say that the PPVT provides a decent estimation of VIQ in a pinch. But Kanazawa engaged in dodgy statistical contortions to tie the PPVT to general intelligence. For example, he asserted that the PPVT has a good correlation with Raven’s Progressive Matrices, which he said is “widely regarded as the best measure of general intelligence.”

Wrong. Raven’s Matrices is a test of nonverbal reasoning. Sadock & Sadock (2003, p. 191) classify it as a test of executive functioning, not general intelligence. I know of no clinical psychologists who turn to Raven’s Matrices for a measure of general intelligence.

But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the PPVT and Raven’s Matrices could somehow be tied together to provide an estimate of general intelligence. The best evidence Kanazawa could muster was from a study that found correlations between the tests of .22 (weak) among first graders and .52 (moderate) among both third and fifth graders. He provided no correlation for the two tests among adolescents, dismissing the lack of evidence by claiming that “It appears that the PPVT becomes a better measure of general intelligence as children get older.”

It is customary to provide evidence for such assertions, especially when stretching data well beyond its intended use. But that really doesn’t matter. Irrespective of any presumed correlation, propping up a vocabulary test with a test of nonverbal reasoning is sketchy business from the start. They simply measure different things, and neither measures general intelligence.

Apologies for the jargon. I’ll spare you the rest of the gory statistical details and refer you to page 42 of his study. While engaging in nimble leaps of logic, Kanazawa even went so far as to provide IQ ranges (see figure 1) based on this single, paltry vocabulary test.

All of his explanations and contortions aside, Dr. Kanazawa based his intelligence data on a limited measure of verbal ability, and nothing more. Returning to my point about VIQ and academic success, his methodology thus far has factored out the very children who would probably contradict his theory. How might the little rascals do that? Read on…


Liberalism: The Dependent Variable and Even More Broken Data

Kanazawa’s liberalism data is at least as muddled and biased as his intelligence data for two reasons.

First, the “more intelligent” kids – because of the way they were selectively funneled into this category via the aforementioned methodological mess – are more likely than their classmates to end up in college. Anyone who has paid attention during the last 50 years can attest to the fact that most colleges and universities overwhelmingly encourage liberal thought while discouraging conservatism. Kanazawa himself has acknowledged that academia is dominated by liberals. The data back him up.

In an in-depth study of the political orientation of college professors, Gross & Simmons (2007) reported that 62.2 percent of professors identified as liberal, while only 19.7 identified as conservative. That means that Kanazawa’s “more intelligent” people were more likely than their counterparts to be immersed in liberal ideology at the time of Wave III data collection.

Second, the timing of Wave III data collection corresponds nicely with Kanazawa’s desired outcome. Recall that Wave III data was collected when subjects were between the ages of 18 and 28. According to the Pew Research Center (2003), young adults in the present population who choose a party affiliation (most do not choose an affiliation) are about evenly divided between Republican and Democrat. With increasing age, affiliation shifts toward the conservative side, most dramatically among men.

There is only one reasonable explanation for this: people lose IQ points as they move toward conservatism and gain points if they become more liberal. That has been well documented in The International Journal of Shrinks Who Say Conservatives Are Doody-Heads.

Another possibility is that “more intelligent” people, regardless of their ultimate ideological destination, were more likely to identify themselves as liberal at the time that they were measured. It seems that Wave III data was collected at a time in the subjects’ lives when their answers would be most beneficial to Kanazawa’s theory.

Kanazawa’s dependent variable is a perfectly stacked deck: select the people who are likely to confirm the hypothesis, then time the data collection to the height of confirmatory likelihood.


A Word about Definitions

Though I am no expert on politics, I would be remiss if I ignored the glaring issue of Kanazawa’s ideological definition:

“I provisionally define liberalism (as opposed to conservatism) as the genuine concern for the welfare of genetically unrelated others and the willingness to contribute larger proportions of private resources for the welfare of such others.”

Got it? Liberals care about unrelated others, and conservatives do not. This is perhaps the most simplistic, unsubstantiated, self-serving definition I have ever encountered.

Liberalism and conservatism are not measures of generosity. They are ideologies concerned with the organization of societies. Denver-based political commentator Mike Rosen (1986), citing James Burnham, suggested that liberal-conservative differences lie in the prioritizing of societal values. For example, liberals might put the following values in this order of importance:

Peace, Justice, Freedom, Liberty

…whereas conservatives might prioritize those same values differently:

Liberty, Freedom, Peace, Justice.

That is just one way to think about the differences. There are others. My point is that Kanazawa is dealing with complex ideologies. To delineate them along a single heartstring sentiment is plain silly and clearly tendentious.

His contrived definition is also demonstrably wrong. In an extensive research review, Brooks (2006) found that American conservative households donate 30% more of their personal income to charity than do liberal households. I am not suggesting that American liberals are stingy. Perhaps they express their compassion in other ways. Rather, I am pointing out that the existing data flatly contradict the very foundation upon which Kanazawa has built this house of cards.

You may be wondering how Kanazawa deduced that liberals are more generous than conservatives. In his own words,

“In the modern political and economic context, this willingness [to care for unrelated others] usually translates into paying higher proportions of individual incomes in taxes toward the government and social welfare programs.”

This is a shining bit of irrationality. Anyone who voluntarily donates her hard-earned resources to others can truly be called altruistic. On the other hand, someone who supports a tax increase may or may not be the target of that increase. They may, in fact, be the beneficiaries. It hardly qualifies as altruism to support a tax increase on someone else, especially if that increase transfers resources into one’s own pocket.

This absurd definition of conservatism has no direct effect on Kanazawa’s data collection, but it certainly undermines his hypothesis.


Why the Methodology Matters

Satoshi Kanazawa’s latest paper is a parade of tendentious, self-serving methodological problems. In spite of that, I do not believe that he harbors any special animosity toward conservatives. Frankly, he seems like a nice guy. I enjoy much of his work – I’ve even cited it in the past – and I take no pleasure in beating up on his methodology. I do this because ideas have consequences. Whether it was intentional or not, Dr. Kanazawa has exacerbated a serious problem in the field of psychology.

My profession has a shameful history of beating up on conservatives. For example, a contrived study from 1970 used methodology strikingly similar to Kanazawa’s to reach the same conclusion. Surprise! Our side is smarter than theirs (see Harvey & Harvey, 1970).

More recently, John Jost et al. (2003) concocted a remarkably biased literature review which judged conservatives to be dogmatic, closed-minded, and nearly incapable of grasping shades of gray. Their methodology, which I’ve detailed here, is a shameless collection of rigged samples, shifting definitions, confirmation bias, and other methodological sins.

These are just two of many examples. Based on the sheer number of these studies, you might reasonably suggest that they are correct. Maybe conservatives are, in fact, intellectually inferior to liberals.

That is possible, but every conservative-bashing study I have encountered has been absolutely biased and broken from the ground up. Perhaps that is because they are so incestuous, with each one compounding the errors of the studies that preceded it. Anti-conservative researchers cite each other’s work with unquestioning faith, just as Kanazawa, in this very paper, used the intellectual garbage produced by Jost et al. to prop up his own findings.

I am certainly not the first to notice psychology’s animosity toward conservatives. As Richard Redding (2005) pointed out,

“To date… psychological research has been strongly biased toward validating the ‘flattering’ psychological portrait of liberalism and the ‘unflattering’ portrait of conservatism.” (p. 309).

This mounting body of literature results in a helping profession that is not very helpful to those who sit outside its narrow ideological comfort zone. As Redding put it,

“In effect, psychology’s pervasive liberal Zeitgeist may adversely affect treatment or program effectiveness with politically conservative clients and communities” (p. 311).

…To say the least. We psychologists bill ourselves as healers, but why would any conservative trust us in the face of such clear hostility? And don’t think that those dumb Republicans don’t notice. Surprisingly, they know how to read, and “findings” like Kanazawa’s are leapt upon by an eager press.

Let’s look at some headlines to see what the mainstream media has gleaned from Kanazawa’s latest research on the Savanna Principle:

Hey media guys, you’re missing the point. He was trying to illustrate his theory called the Savanna Pri… oh, never mind.

Trying to mitigate the needless harm caused by this type of research is like trying to scoop urine out of a swimming pool. Ultimately, the headlines have been printed, the details will be lost, and this study will become one more cheap ideological bludgeon.



In Study 2 of Why Liberals and Atheists Are More Intelligent, Kanazawa generalized his findings to the population at large through a different vocabulary test and similar self-report measures of ideology. There is no point in discussing Study 2, as he simply replicated the errors from the first part of his paper.

Brooks, A.C. (2006). Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compasionate Conservatism Who Gives, Who Doesn’t, and Why It Matters. New York: Basic Books.

Gross, N. & Simmons, S. (2007). The Social and Political Views of American Professors. Working paper. Downloaded March 30, 2010 from:

Harvey, S.K. & Harvey T.G. (1970). The effects of intelligence as an independent variable. Midwest Journal of Political Science, 14(4), 565-595.

Hsu, L.M., Hayman, J., Koch, J., & Mandell, D. (2000). Relation of statistically significant, abnormal, and typical WAIS-R VIQ-PIQ discrepancies to full scale IQ. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 16(2), 107-114.

Jost, J.T., Glaser, J., Kruglanski, A.W., & Sulloway, F.J. (2003). Political conservatism as motivated social cognition. Psychological Bulletin, 129(3), 339-375.

Kanazawa, S. (2010). Why liberals and atheists are more intelligent. Social Psychology Quarterly, 73(1), 33-57.

Kaufman, A.S. & Lichtenberger, E.O. (1999). Essentials of WAIS-III Assessment. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Pew Research Center for the People & the Press (November 5, 2003). The 2004 Political Landscape. Downloaded March 28, 2010 from:

Redding, R.E. (2005). Sociopolitical diversity in psychology: the case for pluralism. In Wright, R.H. & Cummings, N.A. (eds.) Destructive Trends in Mental Health: The Well-Intentioned Path to Harm (303-324). New York: Routledge.

Rosen, M. (1986). The fundamental differences between liberals and conservatives. The Denver Post, August 6.

Sadock, B.J. & Sadock, V.A. (2003). Synopsis of Psychiatry: Behavioral Sciences/Clinical Psychiatry. Philadelphia: Lippencott Williams & Wilkins.

Wechsler, D. (1997). WAIS-III Administration and Scoring Manual. The Psychological Corporation, Harcourt Assessment Company.

The Practical Guide to Men


  • It’s just a matter of time and they’ll find that botox injections create the mental state called “borderline personality disorder”.
    Chucky Schumer, for example, as well as Anthony Weiner and a couple of other crazoid Democrats in the House have definitely slipped over the line into that.

  • Jodon English

    Thanks for this, I’m studying psychology at Columbia and to be of a libertarian bent is to be constantly embattled.

    • xkopp

      That’s because to “be of a libertarian bent” means that one must face facts as they are and attempt to apply rationally to come up with a logical solution.

      Unfortunately, rationality is often extremely uncomfortable to partisan interests and frequently seen as destructive by established social norms and institutions – left or right.

      Therefore, when one proposes a logical solution to a societal problem (especially a harsh one) it is perfunctorily derided, diminished and even demonized by either group. Get used to it if you have chosen a libertarian political viewpoint.

      Proposing a path that seems logical, a path in the true middle, will only get you beaten up by both sides.

    • BC

      Thats because libertarianism has demonstrated to not work. Most who favor it doesn’t seem to realise they are within a liberal democracy that stops much of the negative excesses of libertarianism. Societies have worked a great deal to move upwards from effective libertarianism. It is a throwback, not an ideology.

      • Cam

        Agreed, BC. Want a good view of libertarianism at work in this country? Check out historical Jamestown — the first incarnation. John Smith took notes to report to the king. Lines such as “to only pamper their bellies” vastly understates the grotesque self-interest and cannibalism (eventually, literal!!!) that resulted from libertarianism taken to its inevitable conclusion.

      • Robert

        John Smith… Thanks for reminding me of him… What a character he was. At least he married Pocahontas…

        Thanks for this article Shawn.. Very well written. I enjoyed it.

      • steve

        Show me how a “liberal democracy” is preferable.

        There is no solid evidence for this.

        Where has “libertarianism” been proven not to work? Which form of libertarianism are you talking about? You are a liberal, and like to simplify things so you can say “I’m smart, I figured it out” and when people ask you about the details you come up with a blank slate, because you haven’t considered them at all.

        Then inevitably, you end up saying “all intelligent people know this” (which is a logical fallacy, (ad hominem) and not something that an intelligent person would say)

  • Anthony Zahler

    Shawn, I am NOT a Psychologist, and have only rudimentary training in anything psychological but your arguments quote studies that support your position only. If Kanazawa’s methodology is flawed might your’s also be flawed for the same reason?
    My recollection of writing a college paper is to use sources that support your theory, as you both did. You quote a source, Sadock, B.J. & Sadock, V.A. (2003), that is 2 revisions out of date, which seems disingenuous of you as the latest version would have the most up to date information and statistics. Finally, the quote from R.E. Redding is from an article from march 2001? did you make a mistake or take the quote from another source?
    It is hard to believe what you write when you have so many error’s and misleading quotes. why should we listen to you when your methodology is so obviously flawed?

    • Shawn

      Hi Anthony. To the best of my knowledge, my Sadock & Sadock is one revision out of date. Let me know if the 11th edition has hit the shelves yet. Anyway, this is hardly a methodological sin. I doubt that in this next edition they will suddenly decide that the PPVT is a full-scale IQ test.

      As to the Redding reference, I’m not sure what you’re talking about. I have the book in front of me. Copyright 2005. Did I print 2001 somewhere?

      These are niggling potshots. Do you care to defend Kanazawa’s methodology?

      • Glenn

        Whoa…dude. Whoa. No need to use the N-word.

      • Anon

        In this thread: someone who does not grasp etymology whatsoever, and probably takes offense to the word ‘niggardly’.

      • Nancy

        Yes, proves the point that the so called “liberal” is not very liberal minded. Something I’ve noticed for a long time.

      • biologist Libertarian

        Dear Shawn. Thak you for investigating this study.

        Recently dailymail explained another study that investigated low IQ to be correlated with right wing-political assumptions.

        Could you please care to investigate this. As your investigation of this study revealed, it was a very poorly conducted study, that did not have good methodological quality. Could you please look at this study, and if this also is another broken study?

        Here’s the link:–conservative-politics-lead-people-racist.html

        Thank you Shawn, I love your work.

      • Shawn

        Thanks Biologist Libertarian. This appears to be a study in which hard-left academics pre-judge conservatives to be prejudiced. (I think professors have their sense of irony surgically removed upon receiving tenure.) I’ll look into it a bit, but I don’t know if I’ll deconstruct the article. A guy can only take so much abuse.

      • steve

        Ironically, this is what the Nazi’s did for the Jews – If we were to place the word “Jews” anywhere Kanazawa or any other person that perpetuates these flawed studies, it would read like a Nazi hate speech – but since it’s from an “intelligent” person, and not about race, our society doesn’t have the distaste about these studies that they should.

  • Rick

    It looks to me like the author of this rebuttal has highly flawed arguments. The major flaw is that the author starts as a person looking for reasons to counter the study, looking only for arguments he seeks to find. That is he engages in practices he accuses the original study of practicing. The original study may be flawed, but the rebuttal arguments do not prove the point.

    • Tyrannosaurus Lex

      Did you… read Shawn’s post?

    • steve

      So you are saying a rebuttal should look for reasons why the study is valid? Even if the methodology is flawed, and the same people perpetuate the same flawed statistics all the time?

    • Robert

      Rick…have you ever attended higher education? In English 1301, I was taught to immediately jump to ‘your’ point in a given essay/ report/ thesis, etc…

      Shawn explained in the beginning, the set-up with great detail. Did you even read the entire article? Or did you just get to the first paragraph and decided to call it quits?

      This is why our electorate is dumb and our country is falling apart… Because people assume, rather than look into the details to research and figure out on their own, who or what lies have been told.

      We should flatter each candidate with an all-out research project. This is how voting in this nation should be handled. But people refuse. Why? Laziness? Do they not have the capacity to rationalize the information?

      If liberals are so dang smart, why on earth would they ignore newer convictions, that proved their old ones were incorrect? Do you not try to look for new answers to any one flawed conviction?

  • NobodobodoN

    The rebuttals to the rebuttals miss the point of a scientific rebuttal.

    The original study makes a very strong statement, and is therefore naturally held to a very high standard. The rebuttal is effective if it merely shows that the original study should be doubted.

    The rebuttal doesn’t have to provide strong evidence that conservatives are smarter, nor that they are equal, all the rebuttal has to show is “The original study is not well-grounded.”

    For what it’s worth, I am liberal, and intelligent, and I used to be a scientist. I even think that there might be a correlation between intelligence and politics. But I agree with this rebuttal: the Kanazawa study isn’t strong enough to make that case, and all the popular news touting that result should be ignored.

    As we used to say in the business, “These initial results are promising, but further research is warranted.”

    • Trevor Ducreay

      Spot on NobodobodoN. I consider this an effective rebuttal. I consider myself a liberal and certainly one by Kanazawa’s definition. I read Kanazawa and was at first taken in by his arguments. His argument along evolutionary psychological lines is instructive, and I wondered about the methodology. I so wanted him to be right.

      Smith did an excellent job dismantling Kanazawa’s sloppy methodology and convincingly demolished the article as a juvenile wishy washy tract not serious scholarship.

    • Shawn

      Thanks NobodobodN and Trevor for understanding the spirit of my piece. To Rick, I would like to explain that Kanazawa and I were doing entirely different things. He conducted a study; I conducted a methodology critique – the kind of critique that should have taken place during the peer-review process.

      In any event, I am not claiming that conservatives are smarter, so I’m not sure why so many people seem to be taking it personally when I assert that various groups are more similar than different.

    • Pat Martin

      I’m very liberal, but I also “smelled a rat” in the original study. My experience has not been that conservatives are less intelligent or even less empathetic. In fact, I am often surprised to learn that someone I like and respect is politically conservative. I agree with Shawn’s critique of the study methodology too. No matter how elegantly you state it, saying, “Nyah! Nyah! You are just stupid not to agree with me.” seems like a poor way of trying to understand why we DO think differently.
      Thanks, Shawn! I posted your critique on my wall.

    • rocinante

      Thank you, sir, for your honesty and for further clarifying this debate.

      • M.S. Research Psych

        The sample size in his study is very large and are able to handle some of these “rebuttals”. You mention how those that do better on the performance portion and poorly on the verbal portion are completely thrown out of the study… Thus, not truely showing IQ. Given the sample size it is likely that even with those included that the results would still be the same.

      • Shawn

        Hi M.S. Research Psych. Not sure what you mean. Can you clarify?

  • The rebuttal appears no more reliable than the original research. Both lead with an agenda; both cherry pick supporting data; both ignore conflicting interpretations. Smith asserts that Kanazawa failed on these points, then acknowledges that rebuttals do so. In that regard, a pox on both your houses.

    More to the point, though, both Kanazawa and Smith fail to address intriguing, deeply “scientific” demonstrations of greater intelligence among liberals.

    Consider the most studied (and least seriously disputed) scientific issues of recent decades. I suggest evolution, or climate change. Most conservatives reject key scientific findings on both; most liberals accept those same key findings. (Do you really need citations for ~that~?)

    When a group defies or denies “science” ~itself~ — when the group collectively, purposefully, and repeatedly refutes core findings of the best minds of their culture, applying the most advanced tools and methodologies their shared culture can muster — then that group’s intelligence ~deservedly~ should be questioned. They ~invite~ derision.

    When Group A ridicules the world’s most advanced, most systematic intellectual structures and methods for seeking independent knowledge, while Group B (identified primarily by its opposing political stance) respects those same structures and methods… which group might we reasonably ~expect~ to be more intelligent?

    That “bias” — if awareness of facts may be called “bias,” or if that is in any way “wrong” — may have less to do with profession, politics, or personality of the observer, and more to do with their intelligence or intellectual clarity. (Yes, that suggests that Kanazawa has relevant awareness greater than Smith.) The capacity of liberals to accept ~science itself~ should lead toward an expectation that liberals are more intelligent. That’s not observer “bias” — that’s observer ~awareness~.

    The difference is demonstrated ~there~; further studies — though they might be useful to determine its degree — seem superfluous. Note, ironically, that no matter how definitive studies become, we may expect conservatives to reject such “scientific” results. LOL

    • Pat Martin

      I do agree that the conservative agenda seems to see a more static world…as if it were a house or a building with sealed off spaces. It is a world ruled by a divine being who controls everything and rewards/punishes us individually. That is their worldview…and it is a worldview that we all shared before Darwin, Einstein, and Rachel Carson. Conservative action and agenda is consistent with that worldview.
      To conservatives, the liberal belief that we can provide a social safety net without jeopardizing individual initiative, seems as naive to them as their static worldview seems to us.
      I think Shawn rightly points out that studies like this one that are based on sloppy science do not build trust for the scientific community.
      Just sayin’

      • Calvin Kelley

        mmmmmm, I have Silent Spring on my shelf and read it in the 80s both in grad and undergrad courses…..However, you might look up the most recent discussions on her research. It doesn’t look to be as nicely packaged as we once thought.
        just sayin’

    • BC

      I concur with the response as a whole, but in particular the first paragraph.
      Basically, the I’m a bit disappointed in the level of quality presented by both of these pieces. It does not reflect well on the study of psychology.

    • Erasmus

      Tsk tsk! Fiscal and social conservatism, religious beliefs and scientific literacy are all orthogonal. Thinking or asserting otherwise is at best being uneducated, and at worst purposefully prevaricating – that range of faults hardly becoming of the Smartest People in the Room.

    • Bridger

      Your argument does not mean what I think you think it means. Might want to reacess that.

  • Brooks’s data used donations to churches. Donations to chuches are ideologically and religiously-based, not charitable, It does not surprise me that conservatives are stupid enough to send 30% more to Pat Robertson. And while I agree that the verbal acuity score is not a substitute for comprehensive testing, I think it makes a case for applicability to overall intelligence. I have NO problem with Dr. Kanazawa’s selection process for the dependent variable. If subjects are smart enough to claim to be liberal, they undoubtedly are.

    But my primary reason for believing Kanazawa and discounting Smith? It’s because Kanazawa’s theory is borne out by observation. Of a singular real-world phenomenon.


    Every important field of endeavor is dominated by liberals.

    There is a reason Michele Bachmann and other Republicans can’t find good theme music for campaign appearances: most of the good music is written by liberals.

    The best science, the nobel winners, are always liberals. In letters, liberals dominate. Performance? Liberals again.

    Conservatives must content themselves with AM radio demagoguery, NASCAR, and a few top 100 hits on the country dial. That’s about it. No wonder Fox News is always talking about the “Liberal Elite.” When the best you can muster is Dennis Miller and Victoria Jackson, your inferiority complex is understandable.

    • Sandra S.

      Wow. That is truly hateful. I am very liberal. I’m a comparative beginner in my field (working on a PsyD, not much clinical experience). I find major flaws in this rebuttal of the original article, largely because I feel that the use of a PPVT score which highly correlates with the scores on VCI and thus correlates well with the FSIQ of a standard WAIS-IV is probably acceptable, and I find the argument that colleges are breeding grounds for liberalism and therefor college students don’t count to be somewhat self-serving. That said, you have just proven the point that our field is actively hostile to conservative viewpoints. You may only be one data point, and I hope that you’re an outlier, but that kind of hatefulness has no place in our field.

    • David Norton

      You said “Brooks’s data used donations to churches. Donations to chuches are ideologically and religiously-based, not charitable, It does not surprise me that conservatives are stupid enough to send 30% more to Pat Robertson.”

      Not true. Brooks cited other evidence as well:

      This “giving gap” also extended beyond money to time donated to charitable causes, as well. Brooks also discovered that in 2002, conservative Americans were much more likely to donate blood each year than liberals and to do so more often within a year. Brooks found “if liberals and moderates gave blood at the same rate as conservatives, the blood supply in the United States would jump by about 45 percent.”
      UNQUOTE — That’s from Richard Land’s column on Brooks’ paper.

      Read more:

    • rocinante

      Plus, I don’t think you get to define “charitable” – which places your opening statement where it belongs: in the realm of “unsupported assertion”.

    • Bridger

      Sarcasm at it’s finest. Had me going there for a moment. Well played sir.

    • Cam

      Einstein was a liberal. Very liberal. In fact, he was a dedicated utopian socialist, unabashedly so.

      But hey, what would Albert Einstein know? He wasn’t some Ein-…err…

      • steve

        Show how smart you are by using the logical fallacy “appeal to authority” – that will work.

  • I appreciate the analysis of the underlying data regarding the fact that a single measure of verbal ability cannot possibly be equated with a fully measured IQ. At best, it is something to be used to justify a full and rigorous research project. I also agree with the fact that this information as presented can only inflame, not inform. Nobody likes to be called stupid (no matter how sophisticatedly done). It is well established that shame triggers rage and we have too much of that floating around the airwaves and the Internet.

    Likewise, I also feel that in numerous places in the rebuttal that the tone is unhelpfully intense and judgmental. I know the temptation personally, but if we are going to have a civil civilization, capable of having intelligent discussions of serious differences, we have to resist this tendency.

    I think there is little doubt that human concern for others ranges from a small, tight circle of one’s family and other close “kin” to humankind in all its fullness. Like many, I suspect we are predisposed toward the narrow view but capable of learning to respond to the far broader view (thanks to evolved structures in our brain found in the forebrain in particular). This shift has been stirring for many centuries, as witness the following:

    German psychiatrist Karl Jaspers highlighted important changes that arose purportedly independently in three independent cultures from 800-200 BCE. This era (termed by Axial or Pivotal Age by Jaspers) influenced a nexus of religions and other social structures in a more civilized direction, including a greater sense of care for those unrelated to one’s own group.

    There was a Chinese warrior & philosopher named Mozi during this time who chose to help weak cities with fortification. Among his arguments was the importance of helping others who were not members of your family or your clan.

    Finally, I have little doubt about the pragmatic, survival value of facilitating this shift as we, today, come face to face with humanity’s diversity to an extent never experienced before. As difficult as it is, shored respect is essential for this.

    • Shawn

      Hi David, I’m not sure what you’re getting at aside from the fact that you dislike my writing style. That’s fine. Different strokes for different folks. I reject any notion that I’ve been uncivil here, though. I have not stooped to personal attacks against Kanazawa, and in fact I tried to communicate with him before writing my rebuttal in order to give him every chance to defend his methodology.

      So far, no one has attempted to demonstrate that this is a well-designed study. Not even the author.

    • David Norton

      You said “German psychiatrist Karl Jaspers highlighted important changes that arose purportedly independently in three independent cultures from 800-200 BCE. This era (termed by Axial or Pivotal Age by Jaspers) influenced a nexus of religions and other social structures in a more civilized direction, including a greater sense of care for those unrelated to one’s own group. ”

      You seem to assume that Kanazawa is correct that liberals have a “greater sense of care for those unrelated to” their own group. But Brooks in 2006 cited evidence that conservatives not only give more money to religious charities, but gave non-monetarily as well, in ways that could not be directed towards their own:

      This “giving gap” also extended beyond money to time donated to charitable causes, as well. Brooks also discovered that in 2002, conservative Americans were much more likely to donate blood each year than liberals and to do so more often within a year. Brooks found “if liberals and moderates gave blood at the same rate as conservatives, the blood supply in the United States would jump by about 45 percent.”
      UNQUOTE — That’s from Richard Land’s column on Brooks’ paper.

      Read more:

  • bobsyouruncle

    So let me get this straight… You assert that his data points are biased because he used a set that leaves out a group of people less likely to go to college? So, and correct me if I’m reading this wrong, but wouldn’t that mean that the data is screwdriver even more in the conservatives favor since they are excluding college students who are statistically more likely to be liberal? Or is it that because people that go to college and be smarter are also more likely to be liberal?

    • Shawn

      Hi Bobsyouruncle, I don’t think you’re reading it quite right. There are intelligent people who go to college, and intelligent people who don’t. Kanazawa threw out the intelligent people who avoided college.

    • steve

      What about the people who don’t want to go to college and be judged as wrong by an academia who is absolutely opposed to their own ideology, and will even allow the peer review process to let slip gems like this study because they support their own ideology – That sounds very dishonest, but what do I know.

  • Libertarian Girl

    …well at least Progressives aren’t pushing Eugenics these days.

    • BC

      Yeah, because it was popular with progressives…… when?

    • Cam

      Indeed. When Progressives realized political conservatives were eagerly applying eugenics to purposely target minorities, they realized the theories had to be very, very off.

      • CJ

        You may wish to check your history on the subject. “political conservatives were eagerly applying eugenics to purposely target minorities”? You mean like Margaret Sanger? The ultra liberal founder of Planned Parenthhod who wanted to get rid of those “human weeds”?

        “The ministers work is also important and also he should be trained, perhaps by the Federation as to our ideals and the goal that we hope to reach. We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.” Commenting on the ‘Negro Project’ in a letter to Dr. Clarence Gamble, December 10, 1939. – Sanger manuscripts, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, North Hampton, Massachusetts. Also described in Linda Gordon’s Woman’s Body, Woman’s Right: A Social History of Birth Control in America. New York: Grossman Publishers, 1976.

  • Smart Liberal

    Unfortunately, this post doesn’t really hold up as an indictment against the Kanazawa study. Too bad, because it’s clear you thought Kanazawa’s findings or wording were insulting. I too see no reason to use language that indicts people and turn them against one another. However, science is science, and even if scientific reports are not phrased respectfully, they are still worth paying attention to. I encourage my students to make every effort to not throw out the feedback just because they don’t like the messenger or the medium.

    So let’s take your arguments one at a time.

    (1) “Kanazawa interpreted the PPVT as a measure of general intelligence while openly acknowledging that “the PPVT is properly a measure of verbal intelligence, not general intelligence”

    Okay, so let’s say Kanazawa went beyond the data and should have used the modifier “verbal” rather than referring to “general” intelligence. Then, his argument still holds up partially: According to his data, liberals are higher in verbal intelligence than are conservatives. Why does this matter? Because people with verbal intelligence are more likely to get advanced degrees and engage in all kinds of activities that are premium in this knowledge-based economy. When it’s time to vote, they are more likely to understand the issues. So here, you are partially right, and yet Kanazawa’s basic thesis is still worth paying attention — in the narrower arena of verbal intelligence.

    (2) “Moreover, children who struggle with VIQ but who have perfectly solid PIQ scores are more likely than their counterparts to drop out of school (Romi & Marom, 2007). That does not make them unintelligent, but simply intellectually mismatched for a word-based academic environment. These children may even be more intelligent, on balance, than their classmates.”
    Let’s look at that further. First an anecdote: I have a relative who scored in the genius level in a test of spatial and mechanical IQ (on his job). Yet, he did drop of high school and his knowledge of world events, human behavior, basic civics, and philosophy is, shall we say, lacking in substance. There is something to be said for verbal intelligence when we are talking about democracy and civic engagement.

    (3) “That means that Kanazawa’s “more intelligent” people were more likely than their counterparts to be immersed in liberal ideology at the time of Wave III data collection.”

    Okay, so this is a chicken egg question. Did the liberal education create the liberal young adult or did the kid with the propensity to become liberal end up in college? People who read are exposed to a vast array of ideas and information about others, so it’s as reasonable to say that self-selection bias is part of what happened as it is to wonder if indoctrination occurred. Causal analysis aside, the fact is that that those with higher verbal intelligence were more liberal by Wave III.

    (3) “Another possibility is that “more intelligent” people, regardless of their ultimate ideological destination, were more likely to identify themselves as liberal at the time that they were measured. It seems that Wave III data was collected at a time in the subjects’ lives when their answers would be most beneficial to Kanazawa’s theory.”

    Granted that the liberals probably became more conservative as they grew older. Following the same reasoning, it’s likely that the conservatives also become even more conservative, so that those who scored as liberals in Wave 3 were still more libera later in lie than those who scored as conservatives. On average, people in the study probably shifted toward more conservative views, whether initially liberal or conservative. A subset of people who were formerly liberal at wave 3 may have become middle of the road later in life, while a group of the sample who were conservative at Wave III may have become very conservative later in life. The relationship still holds.

    (4) You quote Kanazawa as saying, “I provisionally define liberalism (as opposed to conservatism) as the genuine concern for the welfare of genetically unrelated others and the willingness to contribute larger proportions of private resources for the welfare of such others.”

    Then your comment: “Got it? Liberals care about unrelated others, and conservatives do not.”

    I think you know better than that. Liberalism/conservatism was measured by Kanazawa in 5 categories , not as a dichotomy. You also omitted the crucial distinction of “commit resources” . More properly, Kanazawa is saying that liberals are more willing to commit resources to care for unrelated others. It doesn’t mean that conservatives don’t care. It does mean that they have other priorities so that their willingness to donate to unrelated others is less.

    (5) “Anyone who voluntarily donates her hard-earned resources to others can truly be called altruistic. On the other hand, someone who supports a tax increase may or may not be the target of that increase. They may, in fact, be the beneficiaries”

    Scott Leahy in one of the comments here pointed out that most of the charity donations by conservatives are to religious organizations. It’s plausible that some of these may be buying salvation or status among their church-going peers. There is no reason to assume that one group is more genuinely altruistic than another.

    (6) This last point is what motivated me to respond. You argue against Kanazwa’s definition of liberalism citing Rosen’s distinction between liberals and conservatives:

    Liberals: Peace, Justice, Freedom, Liberty

    Conservatives: Liberty, Freedom, Peace, Justice.

    Now let’s go back to Kanazawa’s definition that you eschew:

    “I provisionally define liberalism (as opposed to conservatism) as the genuine concern for the welfare of genetically unrelated others and the willingness to contribute larger proportions of private resources for the welfare of such”

    Now contributing resources for the welfare of others is simply another way of defining economic justice.

    Kanazawa’s and Rosen’s definitions are congruent with one another. As Rosen sees it, liberals place justice 2nd in his values hierarchy while conservatives place it last. It doesn’t mean that conservatives don’t care and aren’t willing to contribute to the welfare of others. It does mean that other things are more important to them (liberty, freedom, peace).

    As a smart liberal, I am willing to sacrifice some freedom and embrace regulations, taxation, and public education (for example) if it means that others have more opportunities and all of us have a cleaner environment and safe food. Freedom is important to me and I greatly value the Bill of Rights. Yet freedom to me is not incompatible with more regulations so that I can trust what I eat, the children in our county can become better educated, and the pollution index in my city can start going down instead of steadily up. For me, freedom entails responsibility.

    • Shawn

      Hi Smart Liberal,

      Wow, thank you for the civil tone and for being the very first to actually try to defend Kanazawa’s metholodgy. If I gave prizes, you would get one. (There’s been an extensive conversation on my related posting over at Psychology Today and it has degenerated into little more than name-calling.)

      You make some good points and a reasonable argument. There are a few flaws in your argument, though, and I’m not persuaded that Kanazawa’s methodology was acceptable.

      On your point #1, the PPVT is not a measure of verbal intelligence as Kanazawa asserted. It is a screening tool. As such, its data cannot reasonably be tied to Verbal IQ.

      On point #4, I think you missed my point: advocating for tax increases is not altruism, but Kanazawa’s definition assumes that altruism and advocacy for increased taxes are one in the same. This alone completely undermines his argument. And so what if conservatives give to religious organizations? Religious organizations do good things.

      You asserted that conservatives measured at Wave III were likely to become more conservative with age. That’s an interesting hypothesis. If you have a source, maybe you could send it my way.

      Finally, you said that freedom for you does not preclude government regulation. Agreed. Without some measure of regulation, freedom suffers. You and I might disagree on the amount of necessary regulation, but we’re aligned in spirit.


      • Smart Liberal

        Hi Shawn, thanks for the compliment. And thank you right back for your thoughtful response.

        To respond to your response….

        First — I want to clarify that I was not attempting to defend Kanazwa’s methodology. I haven’t read his work, so I wouldn’t presume to do that. Rather, I was commenting on your comments, taking them at face value as accurate. For reasons others have mentioned here, there does seem to be some kind of connection between liberalism and intelligence (verbal ability, academic orientation, word recognition, or whatever term you prefer to use), so this is what my comments are addressing.

        Having said that, let me quickly do the caveat that I am talking about statistical averages here, not individuals. We know there are super smart conservatives just as their are superdumb liberals.

        To pick up with your response….
        (1) Re: PPVT as a measure of verbal intelligence.
        Sometimes I define a test as a measure of whatever it is that it measures. I don’t know enough about PPVT to say what it does or does not measure. I was taking my definition of it as a measure of verbal intelligence from you. So, fine, restrict the definition further. I don’t care. Lets say it’s a measure of word recognition. The point remains — people who do well on this test are more likely to go to college than those who don’t and people who go to college are more likely to be liberal. Even screening tests are able to have statistical associations with another measure.

        RE: tax increases, altruism, etc.

        There is definitely a miscommunication here. Originally, you said, “Anyone who voluntarily donates her hard-earned resources to others can truly be called altruistic. On the other hand, someone who supports a tax increase may or may not be the target of that increase. They may, in fact, be the beneficiaries. It hardly qualifies as altruism to support a tax increase on someone else, especially if that increase transfers resources into one’s own pocket. I am not pointing fingers; I am saying it has been known to happen.”

        As I read this, you are saying that supporting tax increases is not altruistic if the person may be a beneficiary. I responded that people who donate to religious organizations may also be beneficiaries. I am not arguing whether supporting tax increases or supporting religious organizations is a good thing or a bad thing. I am not even arguing whether one is altruistic and the other isn’t. My point is that the two are equivalent — both are equally altruistic or rooted in self-interest, take your choice.

        Re: conservatives becoming more conservative.
        I don’t know of studies about this. I was simply using logic. It’s illogical (to me anyway) that liberals would move in their ideology toward becoming more conservative as they age, but conservatives stay put at whatever level they are. Seems as though they would move also. I agree that this is an empirical question, and maybe one day one of us will know what the research says.

        Re: freedom and regulation.
        You wrote, “Without some measure of regulation, freedom suffers. You and I might disagree on the amount of necessary regulation, but we’re aligned in spirit.”

        Yes! And in the final analysis, that’s what matters, isn’t it? — to know where we are aligned and to know where we differ.

      • rocinante

        Favoring tax increases and charitable giving are NOT equivalent: taxes are not voluntary.

      • Cam

        Yes, they are voluntary. Social contractarianism is implicit. Don’t like it, well, thankfully we live in a democracy (constitutional republic, but still a democracy; no need to mince words and argue like Adams and Madison did). So, you can try and get those aspects of society changed that you don’t like. There’s no guarantee of your success, since there are plenty of people who believe taxes serve a good purpose. As Ben Franklin said, “property is a creature of society; if necessity dictates, society has a right to tax that property to its last farthing”. Pretty harsh. And that’s from Ben Franklin, not Stalin.

    • Sandra S.

      Well said.

    • David Norton

      You said “… Kanazawa is saying that liberals are more willing to commit resources to care for unrelated others. It doesn’t mean that conservatives don’t care. It does mean that they have other priorities so that their willingness to donate to unrelated others is less.”

      You may be right that this is what Kanazawa is saying. But if so, then Kanazawa is wrong. Or, the available data seems to be contrary to his assertion:

      This “giving gap” also extended beyond money to time donated to charitable causes, as well. Brooks also discovered that in 2002, conservative Americans were much more likely to donate blood each year than liberals and to do so more often within a year. Brooks found “if liberals and moderates gave blood at the same rate as conservatives, the blood supply in the United States would jump by about 45 percent.”
      UNQUOTE — That’s from Richard Land’s column on Brooks’ paper.

      Read more:

      Aren’t blood donations pretty much directed towards “unrelated others”? How is “their willingness to donate … less” if more of them give and give more often? How does giving more blood reflect that conservatives have “other priorities” that prevent them from giving?

      And this also contradicts the main point of your quotation: “Scott Leahy in one of the comments here pointed out that most of the charity donations by conservatives are to religious organizations.”, because it indicates that although conservatives DO give more to religious charities, that does not mean that they give less to secular charities, as the blood donation data indicates.

      Now, if you only mean that when the religious are helping unrelated persons through purely secular charities, they are yet doing so for religious reasons, that may be so. But would it be to liberalism’s glory that they REALLY care more than the religious, and are REALLY more intelligent, although conservatives and the religious produce more “liberal” (as defined by Kanazawa) results in actuality?

      • rocinante

        Plus, liberals who dont like Brooks’ work assume that all of their giving is to religious or ideologically-motivated charities.

        While conservatives give more to churches (obviously) they also give more to secular charities.

        Something frequently overlooked in these arguments is that Brooks correlated charitable giving with religious belief: religious liberals gave more to charity than secular liberals, but religious conservatives gave more than anybody else.

        (The religious conservatives I know take the word “tithe” seriously. The Unitarian Church I attended was happy with low-single-digit giving….)

        That should stump all the “liberals are smarter” people, whom I’m sure correlate religious belief with lower intelligence…

      • Cam

        Yeah, it’s called priestcraft, and people have been suckered by it for millennia.

    • Calvin Kelley

      If all liberalism was to agree to the statement ‘the genuine concern for the welfare of genetically unrelated others and the willingness to contribute larger proportions of private resources for the welfare of such”; then the study would have had a huge percentage self-define as liberal (I know that I would). As it is, the graph shows that, statistically, there were a much smaller group of liberals and ultra liberals self identifying that way. My question on the methodology was to not ask if a person identified with a label, but to explore statements with which they agreed and to then decide how ‘enlightened’ they were and which label they fit. Of course that would have been a more extensive/comprehensive study.

    • Allen Hanks

      In response to your point (3): you perhaps wrongly assume the liberal-to-conservative shift that happens as people age is all in the same direction, a general drift rightward.

      But your point would be invalid if it is otherwise: for example, if very liberal and very conservative young people, having seen the complexities of life, both moved more toward the middle, while those in the middle moved slightly to the right.

      If so, as people age and gain knowledge and experience, those with higher verbal intelligence (using the study’s assumptions) become more conservative, and those with lower verbal intelligence become more liberal.

      Just the opposite of the study’s conclusion, no?

      • Cam

        Except to cite, as an example, my mother — who was a Young Republican campaigning for Barry Goldwater. Now she’s a dyed-in-the-wool liberal. Life’s complexities actually opened her mind and eyes.

        And she’s a highly talented orator, actress, and singer, so I somehow doubt her verbal IQ test would be low.

        It could be she’s just a rare exception?

      • Shawn

        Hi Cam – you have a lot to say today. Welcome aboard. Let me ask you a question related directly to the piece I wrote in response to Kanazawa: do you believe that liberals are more intelligent than conservatives, and if so, what do you base it on?

  • Shawn, I am just a random intelligent and extremely liberal guy from the legal field, but I have an significant academic background in quantitative analysis. When someone linked to the original study, I *facepalmed* and hoped that there was a good critique at the end of the link posted at the bottom. I’m glad you posted what you did, and I hope your article gets even more attention.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see a legitimate study announcing more cautious conclusions about the different reasoning abilities of liberals and conservatives and their implications in the Western academic/professional world, similar to those posted by Smart Liberal, above.

  • JC

    Shawn, thanks for attempting to offer a critique of Kanazawa’s study and claims. Just reading some of the comments here coming from some who do not understand how an unbiased scientific study should be conducted makes me angry (I am a former psychologist, currently a microbiologist). I wish you luck in your work here. It would take a stronger person than me to try to discuss such issues with ill-informed readers guided by their own preferred beliefs and personal bias. Good luck to you! I am not a conservative, but I appreciate your effort to show how flawed studies like Kanazawa’s are an embarrassment to the profession of psychology.

  • M

    Clearly, this is a post de facto “study”, non-empirical in any case, more a creative reorganization of imprefect existing data to see if there _may be_ a chance that it will support a fledgling (and popular) theory. A quick foray, just to see if a more expensive organized hunt might be worthwhile in the future.

    This type of work is not uncommon. I hadn’t time to reference his original data sets…was there some more fitting data avaialble for estimating IQ? I’m doubting it, since you didn’t bring it to light already. If not…then I wouldn’t say Kanazawa is being disengenuous, so much as desperate, to use the available data. As the study’s very nature precludes it from reaching high standards – this severe stretch of the original data isn’t unforgiveable, though it is of course deserves suspicion and must be addressed in the Discussion, as I believe it was.

    Happily, researchers are not obliged to make every effort a perfect one, or we would never advance! However, it is always important to remain ethical by openly addressing our flaws and trying not to overstate our case. LOL – in the pressure filled world of grant funding and tenure…just how many researchers do you see understating their work? Ha.

    Alas, this is a tempest in a teapot, and you know it. The work won’t be taken seriously by anyone serious. However…it might lead to more studies, well designed empirical ones even, and one of those just might be worth taking seriously. That is the way of things in research.

    Being “Liberal” or “Conservative” has more to do with attribution style than intelligence, IMHO. So I completely disagree with Kanazawa — BUT I respect him for raising the question or a correlation with intelligence…and you for offering argument.

    And it’s not lost on me that the both of you will profit from the press generated by the entire debacle.

    • Shawn

      Hi M, Respectfully, I disagree with your assertion that this is a tempest in a teapot. If you follow my Redding reference, there are real consequences to my profession’s behavior toward conservatives. Thanks for being open-minded, though.

  • Miguel Madeira

    Shaw – “His contrived definition is also demonstrably wrong. In an extensive research review, Brooks (2006) found that American conservative households donate 30% more of their personal income to charity than do liberal households. I am not suggesting that American liberals are stingy. Perhaps they express their compassion in other ways. Rather, I am pointing out that the existing data flatly contradict the very foundation upon which Kanazawa has built this house of cards.”

    Kanazawa – “The fact that conservatives have been shown to give more money to charities than liberals is not inconsistent with the prediction from the Hypothesis; in fact, it supports the prediction. Individuals can normally choose and select the beneficiaries of their charity donations. For example, they can choose to give money to the victims of the earthquake in Haiti, because they want to help them, but not to give money to the victims of the earthquake in Chile, because they don’t want to help them. In contrast, citizens do not have any control over whom the money they pay in taxes benefit. They cannot individually choose to pay taxes to fund Medicare, because they want to help elderly white people, but not AFDC, because they don’t want to help poor black single mothers. This may precisely be why conservatives choose to give more money to individual charities of their choice while opposing higher taxes.”

    • Shawn

      Hello Miguel. Kanazawa did not write that. You pulled it from a blog posting written by Dan Chmielewski. It can be found here:

      I’m not sure if it was an honest mistake or some sort of tactic to lend credibility to Kanazawa’s work. Either way, let’s keep our citations and attributions in order.

      • Jerkee

        Actually, Kanazawa did write that, in his March 21, 2010, blog post on Psychology Today (See: ). You’ll note, in the article you link, that Chmielewski prefaces the section containing the quote with “From the article, which was published in March.”

        But even if it had been written by Chmielewski instead of Kanazawa, you shouldn’t have simply dismissed it without consideration.

      • Shawn

        Jerkee – I stand corrected. Kanazawa did write that. Chmielewski appears to have posted it as if it were his own. My mistake, and apologies to Miguel. Plus, I should have remembered it, having already read it at some point.

        I didn’t dismiss it without consideration. It just struck me a silly and tendentious. Kanazawa seems to have reached the point where anything and everything supports his theory – even things that oppose his theory. That’s just one of the reasons he cannot be taken seriously.

        The main reason, in my opinion, is his transparent attempt to whore himself out for media attention by sinking to the lowest common denominator and insulting various groups for obvious shock value – such as his recent Psychology Today fiasco in which he provided Genuwine Scientific Proof that Black women are unattractive. Let’s not forget that one of the things he does for a living is sell books, and media attention is good for selling books.

        His approach to his theory has been lost in this whole discussion. Scientists don’t go out and peddle their theory like they were selling snake oil. They propose it, test it, and allow others to weigh in. Respectable scientists don’t act like Theory Pimps.

        His theory is that anything “evolutionarily novel” is a sign of intelligence, and he seems willing to go to any ridiculous length to prove it. I can think of plenty of “evolutionarily novel” behaviors that don’t correlate with foresight, knowledge, planning, or other markers of intelligence. See, for example, the Darwin Awards.

        I’m being a bit tongue-in-cheek, of course, but Kanazawa’s theory has been stretched so thin, and tendencious support for it gathered from so many distant and unlikely corners, that it really can’t be taken seriously.

        Getting back to the main thrust of Miguel’s quote, Kanazawa is claiming that the generosity of conservatives is proof that they are not generous. Don’t be blinded by the fancy mental gymnastics. It’s pure and simple double-talk befitting an elected official, not a scientist.

      • Jerkee

        I certainly didn’t mean to imply that I found his argument vis-a-vis conservative altruism persuasive, but in your previous post you did dismiss the argument, if not without consideration, then at least without explanation. Even as someone with decidedly liberal tendencies, I read his article with more than a little skepticism – his jump from correlation to causation immediately put me on my guard. After perusing his blog on Psychology Today – particularly his execrable post titled “If Barack Obama Is Christian, Michael Jackson Was White” – I have to agree with your assessment of the general quality of his work. Let us not forget, however, that the quality of a theory is not dependent on the quality of the man proposing it… even if there usually is a correlation between the two.

      • Shawn

        Hi Jerkee.

        You wrote: “… in your previous post you did dismiss the argument, if not without consideration, then at least without explanation…” Fair enough.

        As to your last point, I agree. I worry that I’m becoming too critical of Kanazawa and I don’t want to border on personal attack. The few times I’ve seen him in interviews and such (so far he has ignored my attempts to communicate), he seems like a nice, well-spoken guy and there is certainly an inquisitiveness and intelligence about him. I guess that’s one of the things that frustrates me about this. I’d like to see a guy in his position, with interesting evolutionary theories, succeed in advancing the field.

  • xkopp

    I would like to voice a protest to the very idea of IQ tests as empirical standards of intelligence and also and the supposed ‘objective’ metrics that are used to quantify them. I would ask, why should we give any credence to them at all?

    One of the most fundamental problems is that the tests themselves are contrived by a certain group of people that are inclined to think in a certain way and/or have selective abilities.

    These ‘tests’ then favor a similar outcome of similar respondents of similar knowledge, training and experience. Therefore, if you know: word is to X as word is to Y; that is somehow valid and quantifiable.

    But somehow judging a harvest or knowing how to handle a belligerent animal or how to navigate by the stars is really not significant. That kind of knowledge shows no intelligence at all! If you don’t have an internal thesaurus and can’t respond accurately to pre-defined interpretations of certain academically defined stimuli – well then you must be just plain stupid!

    How can we know our intelligence tests are really indicative of an individual’s intelligence at all? Who defines intelligence? By what standards?

    Is a possessor of a PhD, who cannot unclog his own toilet, more intelligent than his plumber who cannot give a synonym for ‘sardonic’? What of the learned mathematician that cannot change his own flat tire and requires help from a mechanic that could not find the square root of four to save his life?

    What then is intelligence? Is it the ability to think or the ability to do? The ability to know or the ability to learn? Can it really be quantified or measured in any rational way?

    • Anonymous

      the examples that you choose actualy are wrong, because there is a fundamental diference between them, at least with the mathematical knowledge. As an economist I know that most economic growth models, and all the ones that have importance in the field, state that the only source of economic growth in the long term is scientific advance, increase our knowledge of how the reality works and then use that knowledge in a way that allow us to do more with less or to do something that was imposible before. So actually, maths or logic should be determinant to define intelligence.

      I can also think a few reasons why language is a component of intelligence, because the more complicate ideas needs of better language skills to be communicated.

      Intelligence, for most people, is the ability to find the solution to a new problem, knowledge would be the ability to solve a known problem that has been solved before.

      Intelligence test has problems, and I dont agree that they should be the ultimate definition of the degree of intelligence of a person, but the critics that you provide are rather unconvincing.

      By the way, most hypothesis to explain charity contributions are explained in a egoistic way, people give more to local charities instead of abroad charities because they benefit from not being subject to be remembered that poverty exists. These commonly acepted economic models seems to support kanazawas explanation more than this rebuttal, because the point is that with taxes everyone in the nation benefits from them, but taxes are almost always (as a national average) progresive, that means that in proportion, poor people benefits far more than the rich ones (wich makes economic sense because of the diminishing utility of money), and you dont control who inside your nation will benefits more. Anyway these are not the variables that should be measure and compared.

      I agree that in order to could measure the level of “care for unrelated others”, the comparison should be made first between the willingness to increase the contributions of the state to third not developed countries andeither the charity given to ngos or other institutions that operate at a local level, then a national level, and then abroad. This way we could measure how much each group really cares about “unrelated others” taking into account economic theory.

      English is not my mother tonge, sorry for my poor writing.

    • ignigena

      I am the previous anonymous.

      I forget to say that Economics lacks the scientific rigor of physics and other pure science fields, basically because we are not allowed to make empirical experiments with the lives of millions of persons, I mean, politicians are, but not us. I have always feel envy of physics because of that, having said so, I really hope Kanazawas papers level of quality is not the average in psycology, because is not just that this is not science, not even a praxis, that paper is not worth the paper is writing on.

      I would like to see a serious paper about this issue, a good one, not that crap. I believe that economics, psycology and sociology will have to unite and create a new field that studies and provide serious value to how society should be manage, a new and more serious way to study economics, but seriouslly, if psycology or sociology have these level of bias its going to take a long time.

    • brylee/kalaya

      thtis is to much reading!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • PJW

    I’ve read many of Shawn’s posts and feel that he provides a logical, analytical discussion of the topic in such a way that even a mere Conservative layperson such as myself can understand. His explanation of the flaws of this particular study seem perfectly reasonable to me.

    I would like to posit a different set of questions: Why do liberals feel such need to show their superiority over conservatives? And, if they are soooo superior, why must they do it with faulty methods?

  • eugene Kearney

    I graduated college without even taking a Psych course. My first reaction is the age of Kanazawa”s sample population. Quote Churchhill “If you’re not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, if you’re not a conservative at forty you have no brain.”
    skewed sample right off the top.

  • Timothy Zak

    There have been periods when educational institutions were essentially religious in mission. I would not be at all surprised to find that in those days, pagan superstitions would be more common among the uneducated, presumably statistically less intelligent.

    People in their young adulthood are very susceptible to the ideological bent of those around them. If textbooks, instructors and the social milieu of the educational systems are preponderantly liberals, it would strike me as particularly surprising if no correlation could be discerned.

    If such an effect were demonstrable, it still would not justify the particularity of the claim that “Liberals are more intelligent”. More importantly, it would not account for the cognitive merits of independent thought, that is, thinking not determined by the fashions and received dogma.

    A conservative at heart, I am all for basing your thinking upon received doctrine. That is why I believe students should accept the fads and doctrines of their teachers.

    It just wouldn’t do for them to employ their (statistically) superior mental faculties to come to conclusions which offer discomfiture to the dominance of the ruling consensus.

  • Elliott

    Off topic, but somewhat relevant to the study which you have so aptly rebutted, it never ceases to amaze me that liberals will argue that IQ is meaningless in regards to IQ gaps between whites and blacks, or men and women, and will quickly and vociferously condemn anyone who argues otherwise as ‘racists’, ‘sexists’, ‘hate-mongers’, ‘scientifically illiterate’, etc., yet when it comes to possibly IQ gaps between hardcore liberals and strong conservatives, they will in large part accept the ‘findings’ of the studies showing such gaps and embrace them with open arms. I myself am a strong conservative, one of those terrorist Tea Party supporters who wills the downfall of the poor and the imperial designs of Wall Street. I will cut the sarcasm and hyperbole, but as a Junior undergraduate student at a public university I have yet to come into contact with just one liberal who has struck me as smarter or more intellectually coherent and honest as myself. I’m not being arrogant, because arrogance is more-so a pride in abilities one does not possess than a pride in abilities which one does in fact maintain. All I would like to get across to all of the liberals on this board is that for all of you and like-minded individuals in government and the media who may strongly believe that your Weltanshauung is infinitely above and beyond whatever beliefs and ideas arise out of the Mental Black Hole that is conservatism, your sentiment is equally shared by those of us on the Right in regards to your worldview. There’s nothing smart about believing that tax raises on the rich will not in effect be suffered by those in the middle class and the lower class, and that those tax increases will in fact actually make the rich ‘pay’, when they in reality will simply cut payroll, close their businesses, put more of their money in tax havens, or simply leave the country if the business climate becomes excessively suffocating. In a democratic nation, the rich cannot be forced to pay for everything by the iron hand of the State; the wealthy can and so simply maneuver around government policy, with those left paying the price in reality being the unfortunate souls making far less than $200,000 a year. I’m not going to get into a debate over tax policy here and now. All I want to convey is that those on the Left who honestly believe the likes of William Buckley, Mark Levin, Barry Goldwater, Michelle Bachmann, Mark Steyn and Andrew McCarthy represent a stupid portion of our society, are too dishonest or mindlessly ideological, if not simply lacking in the proper mental tools to even be rebutted on that claim by reasonable people.

    • ignigena

      Elliot dude, first let me tell you that you did get into a debate of tax policy here and now, and you already lose it, study economics and look at the econometric findings about taxes. The society is better with progresive taxes and your claim that it will lead to close business is just ridiculous. As your claim that “In a democratic nation, the rich cannot be forced to pay for everything by the iron hand of the State; the wealthy can and so simply maneuver around government policy”. Actually i though that democracy was about let the people decide, I didnt knew it was about let the rich choose if they are going to comply with wath the people wants to be done. If your point is some kind of cynic response like “this is how the world works and it can not be changed” i suggest to look to other countries in the world, you know where there is not a 15% of the population without health insurance, ans mant more underinsurance and about 100000 persons a year die because of it when they could have live. I have a wechlers iq rating of 140, and in my opinion your ideas are a bunch of excuses to allow rich ones to be richer, and provide their children with far more oportunities than the poor ones, which, by the way, is just oposite to one of the fundamentals axioms of capitalism.

      • Bridger

        Bridger – sorry, but I had to delete this comment since it was only ad-hominem. Shawn

  • vinainor

    In your description of Kanazawa’s study, don’t you have your independent variable and your dependent variable switched around? Usually, the categorical variable (e.g., political orientation) is the the independent variable (or more accurately, the quasi-independent variable) and the measured quantitative variable (i.e., verbal intelligence score) is the dependent variable. Also, aren’t verbal intelligence and performance intelligence positively correlated? Your statement below seems to suggest that they are negatively correlated:

    “Instead, his definition of ‘more intelligent’ is biased toward those with relatively higher VIQs and away from people with relatively higher PIQs.”

    Finally, I noticed that you have a Psy.D., which is a degree that is known more for its practitioner orientation than a researcher/methodology orientation. As someone with a Ph.D., my assessment of your methodological critique is that you are overstating the methodological flaw in Kanazawa’s study. So, he used a proxy variable with good content validity for general intelligence, but what would be wrong with that if it is highly correlated with general intelligence? Also, I think you overestimate how influential the college environment is in shaping students’ political orientation. I teach at a university, and quite frankly, I am hard pressed to find very liberal students. Most students I have spoken with identify themselves as conservatives or moderates even though many faculty members identify themselves as liberals. It is only in the most prestigious universities that you find a higher concentration of liberal students. (BTW, How do YOU make sense of that?). Furthermore, as an academic, I am offended by your unfounded suggestion that professors insert their political orientation into the classroom rather than simply teaching what is the perceived consensus within our respective fields. There is already plenty of content to teach without having the content be political. Even most political science professors keep their politics out of the classroom (although not necessarily out of their writing).

    Having said that, I am not a fan of Kanazawa. I think he is more interested in being sensational than being scientific. Even John Jost, who you lump together with Kanazawa, has been critical of Kanazawa (at least when I spoke with John). I think the real test of your methodological critique is when you evaluate John Jost’s work, which I will be reading next.

    • Shawn

      Hi Vinainor, Let me try to hit your main points:

      • If I have the independent and dependent variables switched, then so does Kanazawa. I’m just describing the study as he did.

      • Yes, I have a clinical training, and so I’m not as versed in research methods as you. I’ll concede that the structure of the study may not be inherently flawed, and perhaps I overstated that. However, it is my clinical training that alerted me to the absurdity of using the PPVT as a measure of full-scale IQ – especially extended out over many years and ignoring regression to the mean. Sound statistics cannot overcome breaches of common sense.

      • “…as an academic, I am offended by your unfounded suggestion that professors insert their political orientation…” Eh, you’re free to be offended, though I wasn’t speaking of you personally so it seems a waste of energy. I’ve spent 10 years in higher education, five at a state university (hardly elite) and five at the University of Denver (the program I attended is elite).

      From the beginning of my academic career, professors have injected their political biases. Not all of them, and not even most of them. But far too many. My first realization of that was when I was assigned to read Howard Zinn’s history book. I think we can use that as a litmus test. If you believe Zinn’s “People’s History of the United States” to be even-handed, then you are probably so far left that left-of-center looks like the center from your perspective.

      In my graduate training, the bias was also inserted. Again, it was a minority of professors and supervisors, but it was most decidedly present, and the pressure to conform to a hard-left ideology was immense. And it wasn’t the friendly, respectable liberal ideology I encountered as an undergraduate. Much of it was hard-left extremism. For example, one professor announced to the class that the US deserved the 9-11 attacks, and he assigned radical leftist books to read, including a book advocating violence against white people as a way to advance liberal ideals. (In fairness to the institution, I should point out that this particular professor was fired for such things.)

      • How do I account for a dominant liberal ideology at elite institutions? Well first off I would say that not all liberal ideology is wrong, but it is still ideology and professors have no business bringing it to the classroom. More to your point, elite institutions are echo chambers – like most groups of people are, I suppose. I’m speaking in broad generalizations here, but I think it’s a valid generalization: elitist liberals (I make a distinction between “elite” and “elitist”) have little regard for people they believe to be less intelligent than themselves, and so they simply quote each other. My Exhibit A is the inbred nature of Jost’s study, in which he selectively cites *only* those sources that support his viewpoint. One gets the impression that he was never exposed to anything other than radical leftist ideology. I’m curious to see what you think of my deconstruction of his paper.

      Also, as an aside, Jost (and all of his co-authors) were invited by a respectable talk-show host to debate me and defend their methodology. All of them refused. I think this is emblematic of elitist professors refusing to defend their ideas against the scrutiny of anyone other than likeminded colleagues or compliant students.

      In closing, thank you for not injecting your ideology – whatever it is – into your classroom. As I’m sure you would agree, that is not what the students are paying for.


  • Sigh

    In other words, science and liberalism win again. Don’t be a sore loser.

  • Just a Thought

    The PPVT (Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test) is a standardized, normed, valid measure of lexical knowledge (the vocabulary in one’s head). The examinee is given a word out loud and asked to choose the corresponding picture from a field of 4 drawings (presented in the style of a grid) on a page of a flip chart. S/he can either point to the response or state the letter (a, b, c, d) of his chosen answer. Some vocabulary tests (the Recpetive One-Word Picture Vocabulary Test, and apparently the PPVT, as well) are “correlated with” similar results on the Verbal portion of a popular Intelligence test. They are not intended to be used interchangeably. The PPVT, unlike the WISC (or its equivalent measure for adults) does not require manipulation of language for accuracy. Furthermore, the authors of the RO-WPVT state plainly that the 4-picture response mode of their receptive vocabulary test may elicit lower scores than its expressive counterpart (a labeling test) in individuals with ADD, because of the distracting nature of four drawings per page. I would reasonably imagine this may be true as well with the 4-picture format of the PPVT. With that said, school psychologists often look further when there is a large (15 point or more) discrepancy between verbal and performance IQ on tests of verbal and performance (grossly speaking, left and right brain) measures of intelligence. Although the PPVT is quicker to administer and write about, it seems faulty to discuss its results as other than the measure of receptive vocabulary that it was intended to be.


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