You are not using a standards compliant browser. Because of this you may notice minor glitches in the rendering of this page. Please upgrade to a compliant browser for optimal viewing:
Internet Explorer 7
Safari (Mac and PC)
Press Release
Intelligent people have 'unnatural' preferences and values that are novel in human evolution
Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Hot brain image Courtesy of Shutterstock
More intelligent people are significantly more likely to exhibit social values and religious and political preferences that are novel to the human species in evolutionary history. Specifically, liberalism and atheism, and for men (but not women), preference for sexual exclusivity correlate with higher intelligence, a new study finds.

The study, published in the March 2010 issue of the peer-reviewed scientific journal Social Psychology Quarterly, advances a new theory to explain why people form particular preferences and values. The theory suggests that more intelligent people are more likely than less intelligent people to adopt evolutionarily novel preferences and values, but intelligence does not correlate with preferences and values that are old enough to have been shaped by evolution over millions of years."

"Evolutionarily novel" preferences and values are those that humans are not biologically designed to have and our ancestors probably did not possess. In contrast, those that our ancestors had for millions of years are "evolutionarily familiar."

"General intelligence, the ability to think and reason, endowed our ancestors with advantages in solving evolutionarily novel problems for which they did not have innate solutions," says Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics and Political Science. "As a result, more intelligent people are more likely to recognize and understand such novel entities and situations than less intelligent people, and some of these entities and situations are preferences, values, and lifestyles."

An earlier study by Kanazawa found that more intelligent individuals were more nocturnal, waking up and staying up later than less intelligent individuals. Because our ancestors lacked artificial light, they tended to wake up shortly before dawn and go to sleep shortly after dusk. Being nocturnal is evolutionarily novel.

In the current study, Kanazawa argues that humans are evolutionarily designed to be conservative, caring mostly about their family and friends, and being liberal, caring about an indefinite number of genetically unrelated strangers they never meet or interact with, is evolutionarily novel. So more intelligent children may be more likely to grow up to be liberals.

Data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) support Kanazawa's hypothesis. Young adults who subjectively identify themselves as "very liberal" have an average IQ of 106 during adolescence while those who identify themselves as "very conservative" have an average IQ of 95 during adolescence.

Similarly, religion is a byproduct of humans' tendency to perceive agency and intention as causes of events, to see "the hands of God" at work behind otherwise natural phenomena. "Humans are evolutionarily designed to be paranoid, and they believe in God because they are paranoid," says Kanazawa. This innate bias toward paranoia served humans well when self-preservation and protection of their families and clans depended on extreme vigilance to all potential dangers. "So, more intelligent children are more likely to grow up to go against their natural evolutionary tendency to believe in God, and they become atheists."

Young adults who identify themselves as "not at all religious" have an average IQ of 103 during adolescence, while those who identify themselves as "very religious" have an average IQ of 97 during adolescence.

In addition, humans have always been mildly polygynous in evolutionary history. Men in polygynous marriages were not expected to be sexually exclusive to one mate, whereas men in monogamous marriages were. In sharp contrast, whether they are in a monogamous or polygynous marriage, women were always expected to be sexually exclusive to one mate. So being sexually exclusive is evolutionarily novel for men, but not for women. And the theory predicts that more intelligent men are more likely to value sexual exclusivity than less intelligent men, but general intelligence makes no difference for women's value on sexual exclusivity. Kanazawa's analysis of Add Health data supports these sex-specific predictions as well.

One intriguing but theoretically predicted finding of the study is that more intelligent people are no more or no less likely to value such evolutionarily familiar entities as marriage, family, children, and friends.


American Sociological Association:

Thanks to American Sociological Association for this article.

This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.

This press release has been viewed 2871 time(s).


Guest Comment
Wed, Feb 24, 2010, 7:39 pm CST
Correct me if I am wrong - but wouldn't this study also indicate that higher intelligence women should be on average less sexually exclusive? I just think its an interesting point which seems to have been ignored by the article.

Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
Rate Post:

Like 0 Dislike
Thu, Feb 25, 2010, 10:49 am CST
I don't think they're saying women are less sexually exclusive, just that intelligence makes no difference on their exclusivity. I'm not sure you can accurately compare between the sexes here. I think the researchers are doing a good job of not overstating their findings.

Guest Comment
Sun, Apr 04, 2010, 4:05 pm CDT
I'd say that we are not nearly as intelligent as we think we are and that it's our ego and stupidity that leads to 'unnatural' preferences and values. Also, intelligence is not new to homo sapiens, there is plenty of evidence that we have been having 'novel' ideas for quite some time.

Guest Comment
Thu, Apr 15, 2010, 12:38 pm CDT
hmmm... well it is an interesting premise but I don't think I buy it.... The statistics are presented so loosely that it is impossible to determine whether there is an actual statistical difference or if the difference is likely due to population variance.

I will note that I am a left-wing person who thinks she is fairly intelligent... so this would be a "flattering" article... but it doesn't make it factual or good science... and in fact to accept a difference of 6 IQ points as statistically meaningful without any information about population variance, sample selection, and other factors such as what IQ test was used would go against what that intelligence says...

To actually be convinced of this standpoint I would require a little more detail... And I'm betting that the difference is pretty statistically small...

Guest Comment
Wed, Apr 21, 2010, 1:10 pm CDT
Yeah,I have issues with this. I remember a test they did a while back that was used by the Bell Curve hyposthesis people to say that people of certain races were smarter than people of other races... sounded disturbingly compelling, until a black sociologist came up with an IQ test that culturally deferred to blacks.

Basically, I smell something funny here.
Add Comment?
Comments are closed 2 weeks after initial post.