We’re often quick to think that someone who is prejudiced is also not very bright.
We assume they lack intelligence, education, or information.
But new research has found that prejudice is just as prevalent among the bright ones; that people at both high and low ends of the intelligence spectrum actually express equal levels of prejudice.
The difference, however, is what they’re prejudiced against.
Social psychologists Mark Brandt and Jarret Crawford analyzed 5,914 subjects in their experiment, “Answering Unresolved Questions About the Relationship Between Cognitive Ability and Prejudice.”
The researchers measured the amount of prejudice present in groups of higher cognitive ability and lower cognitive ability, removing value judgments about whether a specific prejudice is justified or not.
To assess the cognitive ability of their subjects, the researchers used a wordsum test, which is correlated to an individual’s intelligence quotient (IQ).
The researchers found stark differences when it came to who was prejudiced against who.
People of low cognitive ability tend to be prejudiced against non-conventional or liberal groups, as well as groups who were typically repressed historically due to their race, gender or sexual orientation.
On the other hand, the smarter subjects were likely to be prejudiced against groups considered conventional or conservative.
Another polarized finding in their study was that people of low cognitive ability are prejudiced against groups that people didn’t choose to be part of, like ethnic or LGBT groups. Brandt and Crawford point to previous research that shows that less intelligent people “essentialize,” or see different groups as being distinct from each other with “clear boundaries.”
“Having clear boundaries helps people feel like the opposing group is distinct and far away. That is, they won’t be so much of a threat,” said the researchers, according to Broadly.
They highlight how Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall along the southern border of the United States would create a literal boundary in addition to the pre-existing mental one.
Sadly, the study reconfirms that it may be human nature to dislike those who are different from us.
At a time of heightened racial tensions, the gender equality movement, and promotion of LGBTQ rights, we can’t readily accept this as reality. Some promise comes from Another recent study that revealed prejudice can be reduced simply from having a 10-minute conversation with a member of a marginalized group.
Perhaps more people should try it.