New Study Explains Connection Between Conservatism, Low IQ, And High Religiosity
Numerous studies have shown a negative correlation between intelligence and religiosity, but a new study indicates this link is part of a larger picture – a cluster of psychological traits and attitudes called “conservative syndrome”.
> The term isn’t meant to describe conservatism as a disease. Rather, “syndrome” denotes that a number of traits and dispositions associated with conservatism are correlated with each other.
> The new study, published in Personality and Individual Differences, suggests that the “conservative syndrome” is associated with lower intelligence, and religiosity is only a part of it.
Lazar Stankov, an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Sydney and author of the study, set out to study intelligence within the realm of social conservatism, rather than within a narrow focus of religiosity.
> “Much of our own cross-cultural work and studies of militant extremist mindset (MEM) have shown that religiosity is best understood as an aspect of social conservatism. However, expert in intelligence tend to view religiosity in isolation rather than in its broader context. My aim was to point out that social conservatives, not just religious people, tend to score somewhat lower on measures of intelligence.
> For their study, the researchers analyzed data from 8,883 participants from 33 different countries. Fluid intelligence was assessed using a number series test, which requires participants to find the missing number in a sequence.
> In line with previous research, they found that people who scored lower on the intelligence test were more likely to be religious. The researchers also found that endorsement of traditional values, the belief that power should be concentrated at higher levels of a government and conservative political beliefs moderated the link between lower intelligence and religiousness.
> “It should understand that social conservatives, including very religious people, tend to be more restricted in their views of the world,” Stankov told PsyPost. “Because of their lower IQ they are more close-minded and afraid of change. They also tend to be more nasty towards those who do not belong to their own group.”
Stankov previously explained that conservatism as a political label often causes confusion, and the term in itself does not necessarily imply “conservatism syndrome”, religiosity, or lower intelligence.
> “An important issue is the relationship between conservative syndrome and political conservatism. The motivation of those voting for conservative parties varies,” Stankov explained. “In Western countries a sizeable proportion of people may do so for fiscal rather than social reasons. Their main concern is with the preservation of the free market and less so with social and psychological aspects of life. Given the rise of populism in politics it may be interesting to study the interaction between fiscal and social conservatives and the extent to which each is using the other to achieve political gains.”
Further, Stankov noted that although the negative correlation between intelligence and both religiosity and conservatism is well documented, the effect may be less than previously thought:
> “I may add, however, that while negative correlations cannot be questioned, some recent work indicates that the strength of the relationship at least in Western countries is weaker than previously thought.”