Why You Are Not As Intelligent As People Think

Everyone believes people are smarter than they really are, and that the problem of cognitive bias is largely psychological. In this document, I will explore the scientific evidence that I believe supports this conclusion.

According to the intelligence quotient (IQ) theory, some people scored a higher IQ than others because they received their intelligence from hard-won genetic variants in their DNA, whereas others were born smarter than others, so no genetic variants are required. In other words, individuals who grew up at the top end of the IQ spectrum have a distinct advantage in terms of brainpower, because brainpower is shaped by genetic variants that can be obtained from genes. But there is also this:

Intelligence is not evenly distributed across the population. Those at the top of the distribution are the most intellectual — and those in the middle, less so. For example, an IQ of 115 is considered average — the average IQ score for students in the United States in the years 1990 to 1994. But a boy born with an IQ of 120, a boy born with an IQ of 120, and one child all born with IQs of 115 or higher is considered exceptional.

There are two sides to the “opposite of everything a normal person believes, or thinks, should be true” coin. On the intellectual side, the more intelligent people are, the farther back they have to go to prove their superiority. On the emotional side, the most intelligent people tend to be more emotionally closed and conservative — and they do tend to have the most conservative politics, compared to others. And on the biological side, as intelligence goes up so does the likelihood of disease.

There are many kinds of intelligence — and so there are different types of cognitive bias. But most IQ tests test primarily two kinds of intelligence — reasoning and processing speed. For example, to pass the IQ test, you have to be able to answer questions quickly. If you can answer questions with greater speed, then you are considered to be in the top 2% of intelligence. And for intelligence quotient tests, you might be considered either above average or below average for intelligence, depending on whether you scored the lowest or highest.

Rational thinkers tend to think in black-and-white, with nothing in the middle. They are not good at considering nuance or context or ambiguity, and they are bad at finding and using a general strategy such as logic. In contrast, creative thinkers have the ability to think in shades of gray. They can think beyond one problem at a time. They are good at finding and applying general strategies. For both these kinds of thinkers, the IQ test doesn’t tell us anything about their actual intelligence. Instead, cognitive bias is related to the cognitive strategies they use while processing information.

It turns out, cognitive bias exists not just because children learn from one another; children also learn to be better when they have lots of support from other kids (aside from their parents’ encouragement). This supports the idea that more intelligent people tend to benefit from high-quality parental supervision, which may not be in their best interest.

In a large study of families with two children in the U. S., researchers found that the more intelligent parents tended to give the children the opportunity to do more independently, compared to the parents of less intelligent parents (Perez-Perez et al. 1998).

Cognitive bias helps explain why intelligent children are less likely to engage in risky behavior. There is no evidence that kids with more intelligence also act up. But there are reasons they might not, and these are important for parents of smart kids. For example, even if parents provide the smart kid with the best academic and social supports, he will also benefit from the good stuff that parents can provide for the less intelligent kid, such as time to develop self-esteem and get involved (Perez-Perez et al. 1998).

IQ has also been implicated in the evolution of culture. A study published in 1989 in the American Journal of Sociology found a significant relationship between IQ and the extent of a culture’s tradition of monogamy.

The researchers compared a sample of 17 industrialized nations, all of which had developed at least one culture and were not still living in the same one.

By correlating scores in the seven areas of the SAT that measure intelligence with the seven areas of tradition of monogamy, the researchers found that the countries with the most traditions of monogamy scored the highest on IQ tests.

IQ also plays a role in people’s ability to control their emotions. We often use our intelligence to control other peoples’ emotions for us. We do this all the time – if someone is crying, or is angry, we think they are stupid or stupid to be angry. Yet we know that other people’s emotions are often driven by internal urges.