A new study from the University of Queensland in Australia has added to a growing body of research that finds correlation between low cognitive ability and a predisposition toward prejudicial mentalities – in this case regarding same-sex marriage.
Titled “The Cognitive Roots of Prejudice Towards Same-Sex Couples: An Analysis of an Australian National Sample,” authored by Francisco Perales and published in the peer-reviewed journal Intelligence, this is the first study to analyze the associations between attitudes towards LGBT issues and cognitive ability on a non-U.S. sample.
Previous research indicates that lower general intelligence in childhood predicts anti-homosexual prejudice in adulthood. For instance, a Brock University study titled “Bright Minds and Dark Attitudes,” published in Psychological Science, showed that lower intelligence predicts greater prejudice, predominantly through low inter-group contact and right-wing ideology.
For his study, Professor Francisco Perales drew upon data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA), analyzing information from 11,654 Australians.
HILDA provided data on “subjective well-being, family dynamics, economic well-being, and more.”
To assess cognitive ability, Perales used the following tools:
The Digit Span Backwards test – Used in clinical neuropsychology, and considered to be one of the most influential working memory models in the last century, this test is used for assessing working memory capacity.
The National Adult Reading test – Developed and published in the early 1980s, often used in clinical settings, and on patients with dementia in neuropsychological research and practice, this test is used for estimating premorbid intelligence levels.
The Symbol Digit Modalities test – Meant to provide a quick screening for organic cerebral dysfunction in individuals 8 years and older, the Symbol Digit Modalities test is a relatively culture-free test that detects cognitive impairment in a matter of minutes.
Perales found that participants who scored lower on the cognitive ability test were more inclined to respond unfavorably to statements supporting the rights of same-sex couples and LGBTQ people generally – particularly those who scored lower on the verbal test.
“High cognitive ability leads to lower prejudice, net of a large set of confounds. Results hold across different ability measures and are strongest for verbal ability. Education partially mediates, but does not moderate, the effect of ability,” study author Francisco Perales of the University of Queensland wrote.
In a statement supplied to PsyPost, Perales added that, “despite the significance and contemporaneity of the subject matter, few studies have specifically addressed the links between cognitive ability and attitudes towards LGBT issues.”