Conservatism and Cognitive Ability, by Lazar Stankov, et al.

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Re: Conservatism and Cognitive Ability, by Lazar Stankov, et

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3.2. Conservatism syndrome described

A description of the Conservative syndrome based on the results of factor analysis presented in this paper and in other studies of ours that contained measures that were not analyzed in this paper is as follows. The Conservative syndrome describes a person who attaches particular importance to the respect of tradition, humility, devoutness and moderation (i.e., Traditional values) as well as to obedience, self-discipline and politeness (i.e., Conformist values), social order, family, and national security (Security values) and has a sense of belonging to and a pride in a group with which he or she identifies (In-group Collectivism). A Conservative person also subscribes to conventional religious beliefs (Alphaism) and accepts the mystical, including paranormal, experiences (Deltaism). The same person is likely to be less open to intellectual challenges (Openness) and will be seen as a responsible “good citizen” at work and in the society (Conscientiousness) while expressing rather harsh views toward those outside his or her group (Harshness Towards Outsiders).

Table 3: Country level correlations of between-countries factor scores and extension variables

Conservativism at both individual and country level is strongly linked to religiosity — both Alpha (religious sources of authority) and Delta (personal spiritualism) scales (Saucier, 2000) have high loadings on individual- and country-level factors of Conservatism. A recent review by Lynn, Harvey, and Nyborg (2007) reports that in a sample of 137 countries the correlation between national IQ and belief in God is r=−.60. Nevertheless, given the pattern of loadings in Table 1 and other analyses of the data (e.g., Stankov, 2007) it is apparent that Conservatism syndrome is broader than religiosity and cannot be reduced to the latter.

3.3. Common cause at individual and country levels?

The results presented in Table 1 show similarity, albeit not complete correspondence, between the factors at two levels of analysis. This is important evidence that indicates that problems associated with ecological fallacy (Robinson, 1950) may be relatively small in our data. Ecological fallacy is an error in the interpretation of statistical data whereby inferences about the nature of individuals are based solely upon aggregate statistics collected for the group to which those individuals belong. In principle, this may or may not be true and doing the analyses at both levels provides away to test the underlying assumption of the common cause. The fact that they are similar across the levels indicates that whatever sources or common causes operate to generate factors at the country level may be similar to the causes that operate at the individual level.

3.4. Correlates of Conservatism

The following sections examine correlations between the individual and country-level Conservatism factors with measures of cognitive abilities and, at a country level, with a host of other indicators of economic and social development. The pattern of these correlations can inform about the psychological nature of the obtained factors.

3.4.1. Individual level: correlations with tests of cognitive abilities

Table 2 presents correlations between the four sets of factor scores and three different cognitive measures. A consistent trend is clearly present across the three rows: significant correlations appear for Conservatism and (Amoral-) Social Attitudes/Personality (reverse loadings from Table 1). Clearly, people who score low on measures of cognitive abilities tend to endorse more strongly Conservative statements. The lowest correlation is for Analogies scores which were obtained from a sample of TOEFL test-takers, possibly the highest ability group in our studies that is likely to be prone to the restriction in range effects. Those scoring low on cognitive ability are also strongly supportive of (Amoral) Social Attitude statements. In other words, these are the macho, tough people who are not prepared to accept “soft” solutions to problems that arise in social interactions. Independence between the first and the fourth factor in Table 1 implies that Conservatism is different from (Amoral) Social Attitudes — one can be, for example, conservative and tough or conservative and “soft”. Nevertheless, both are negatively related to intelligence.

The other two factors — Values and Social Norms — have considerably lower correlations with cognitive measures, with four out of six coefficients not being significantly different from zero. The highest correlation (.16) is with the Values factor. This correlation is at least in part due to the loading of Openness on the Values factor in Table 1 since Openness tends to correlate about .30 with measures of cognitive abilities (see Stankov and Lee, 2008).

Thus, in accordance with the expectations, Conservatism and (Amoral) Social Attitudes factors show negative correlations with cognitive measures supporting the hypothesis that those endorsing conservative views have low cognitive abilities. This is in agreement with the assumption that people with lower cognitive abilities may perceive threat and uncertainty where more capable people do not see it and therefore express more conservative views than those with high cognitive abilities. This is also consistent with the view that a common causal mechanism may underlie individual differences in both conservatism and cognitive ability.

3.4.2. Between-countries level: correlations between Conservatism and cognitive abilities

In order to find out if the two between-countries factors show the same trends as individual-level factors, we examine their relationship with a selection of country-level variables. These latter variables for 35 countries were compiled from four sources: the study of structural equivalence of Eysenck's Personality Questionnaire (EPQ) by van Hemert, van de Vijver, Poortinga, and Georgas (2002); World Database of Happiness (Veenhoven, 2007); The Fund for Peace (http://www.fundforpeace. org); and Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD, 2004).We employ the following country-level measures:

1. Education — the teacher–pupil ratio, proportion of population of a particular age that is enrolled at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels, and percentage of adult illiterates (van Hermert et al., 2002);

2. Intelligence — IQ tests in general population samples completed with estimates based on observations in comparable countries. Period 1950–1999. From Veenhoven, based on Lynn and Vanhanen (2002) Table 6.5.

3. PISA (OECD, 2004) — Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the assessment program for 14- to 15-year-olds carried out every three years by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD, 2004). This measure is a simple composite of country's Math, Science and Reading scores.

4. Failed States Index: Total Score, 2006 — a ranking of 146 countries in the world in terms of three groups of indicators — Social, Economic, and Political — carried out on a yearly basis by The Fund for Peace. In 2006; the list was headed by Sudan, with Norway being on the opposite, non-failed, end.

5. to 18. Components of the Failed States Index. These are listed in Table 3 — they are self-explanatory.

The measures are strategically chosen from a set of over 1000 country-level indices that have been compiled from the four sources listed above. The first three are indices of cognitive performance, with PISA results representing an objective direct measure of a country's standing, Average IQ being an estimate of the overall cognitive capacity, and Education being a general measure of the success of a country's educational endeavors.

Table 4: Summary of regression analyses using Rindermann's Country IQ estimates and Conservatism scores as predictors and measures of economic and political status as criteria

Countries included in the analyses (N=31): Albania, Argentina, Austria, Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rican, Cyprus, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Philippines, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey and USA. (Note: ns=not significant; ** =significant at .01 level.).

As can be seen in Table 3, all three country-level cognitive measures have significant negative correlations with the Broad Conservatism scores and non-significant correlations with the Broad Personality/Social Attitudes/Norms factor.

Correlations with the twelve components of the Failed States Index (FSI, variables 7 to 18) are also presented in Table 3 to illustrate our general finding with a host of other indicators that are not educational or cognitive in nature. Many more variables from those we have examined show the same pattern of correlations — high correlations with Conservatism scores and nonsignificant correlations with the Broad Personality/Social Attitudes/Norms scores. They include economic indicators, mass communication measures, estimates of freedom based on the functioning of political and legal systems, church attendance and other measures of religious practices, and many indicators of the general “health” of countries in the world. Because of this pattern of correlations, the Conservatism factor from our work can be seen as yet another index of a country's development or, perhaps, as an indicator of the affluence factor suggested by Georgas, van de Vijver, and Bery (2004).

3.4.3. Between-countries level: Conservatism and Country IQ as predictors of the Failed States Index

As mentioned in the Introduction, our country-level data allow for the examination of the relative roles of Average IQ and Conservatism of counties in relationship to the economically and socially important criteria.

Using the Failed States Index Total score as a criterion and country-level Conservatism factor scores and Average IQ as markers gives us an R-square of .652 and standardized beta coefficients equal to .565 and −.293, respectively (see the first row in Table 4). When entered first, Conservatism scores capture 61% of the variance. When entered second, Conservatism scores add about 14% of predicted variance above Average IQ. [3] Thus, in isolation from all other measures, Conservatism is a better marker of FSI than is the Average IQ. Lynn and Vanhanen (2002) claim that IQ is “an important factor contributing to differences in national wealth.” Our data lead to the conclusion that low level of Conservatism may also be an even more important factor contributing to country's success as a state. [4]

3.4.4. Between-countries level: Conservatism and Country IQ as predictors of wealth, democracy, the rule of law, and freedom

In a couple of recent papers Rindermann (2008a,b) examined the effects of IQ and education on several country-level measures of national welfare and political development (assessment of the wealth, rule of law, freedom, and democracy). [5] The outcomes of four regression analyses are summarized in Table 4. In these analyses, Rindermann's estimates of countries' cognitive ability were entered first and countries' Conservatism scores were entered second.

A measure of country's wealth is the Gross Domestic Product per capita (GDP). This is defined as “the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year, divided by the average population for the same year.” The GDP values were retrieved on Oct. 29, 2007 from the following site: by_GDP_(nominal)_per_capita.

It is apparent from the values presented in Table 4 that both IQ and Conservatism can account for a significant percentage of variance (69.80%) in GDP. It is also apparent from the comparison of standardized beta weights that Conservatism is a better predictor of GDP — beta weight for IQ is not significant. In these data, raw correlation between GDP is higher (absolute value) with Conservatism scores (−.833) than it is with the estimated nations' IQ scores (.652). [6] Thus, at the nations' level of analysis, Conservatism scores are better predictors of GDP than are the estimated cognitive ability, or IQ, scores.

It is clear from Table 4 that similar findings have been obtained for the Rule of Law and for Democracy measures. In both cases Conservatism is a better marker of the criteria than IQ or cognitive ability. For the last criterion measure, Freedom, the value of the multiple correlation coefficient was low (R-square equal to .275 and not significant at the .01 level) and neither IQ nor Conservatism had significant beta coefficients.

Overall, both IQ and Conservatism are important in assessing the country's economic and political status, with Conservatism showing a somewhat better predictive validity. Again, I wish to refrain from making causal inferences. All that can be said from the data at hand is that two psychological variables — cognitive ability (or IQ) and Conservative syndrome — appear to form a nexus with demographic, economic, sociological, health and political/legal variables at the country level of analysis.

3.5. Individual-level factors vs. between-countries broad factors

An interesting difference between the two main factors emerges from the comparison of the patterns of correlation in Tables 2 and 3. The Personality/Social Attitudes score is related to cognitive ability at the individual level, but this correlation does not hold for the Broad Personality/Social-Attitudes/Norms factor at the between-countries level. There are at least three possible reasons for this difference in patterns of correlations. First, cognitive variables differ between the two levels of analysis. It can be argued that if the same cognitive measures were involved at both levels, the pattern of correlations would be the same. This is an unlikely explanation. Cognitive variables are known to correlate among themselves and, normally, one would not expect such dramatic differences. Second, despite the apparent similarity between the narrow and Broad Personality/Social Attitudes/Norms factors, there are differences in the pattern and size of factor loadings. For example, as can be seen in Table 1, the loadings of Personality and Betaism and Gammaism measures on the Broad Personality/Social Attitudes/Norms are higher than on the corresponding individual-level narrow factor. These differences might have led to reduced correlations at the between-countries level. I feel, however, that the differences in correlations are too large in comparison to the differences in factor loadings between the two levels, and this interpretation is unlikely to be true. Third, the differences may be genuine, i.e., Broad Personality/Social Attitudes/Norms do not correlate with country-level cognitive and economic development indices. Since we do not have sufficient understanding of why this may be the case, it is prudent to await replication of these findings.

In the meantime, we can safely conclude that both individual-level and between-countries Conservatism factors have negative correlations with cognitive abilities. The scarcity of significant correlations between the Broad Personality/ Social Attitudes/Social Norms factor and other variables can be seen as evidence for discriminant validity of the two broad country-level factors.

4. Discussion

The purpose of this paper was to examine the evidence relevant to the hypothesis that low cognitive ability is associated with high conservatism. This hypothesis can be derived from the theory that sees political conservatism as motivated cognition (Jost et al., 2003) and from Wilson's (1973) dynamic theory of conservatism. Our evidence supports this hypothesis. Conservatism correlates negatively with measures of cognitive ability and educational achievement at both individual- and country levels of analysis. We cannot make any statements about the causality, however.

Empirical support for the hypothesized relationship is contingent on the acceptance of structural evidence that defines conservatism in terms of measures of Personality, Social Attitudes, Values, and Social Norms. The Conservative syndrome describes a person who attaches particular importance to the respect of tradition, humility, devoutness and moderation as well as to obedience, self-discipline and politeness, social order, family, and national security and has a sense of belonging to and a pride in a group with which he or she identifies. A Conservative person also subscribes to conventional religious beliefs and accepts the mystical, including paranormal, experiences. The same person is likely to be less open to intellectual challenges and will be seen as a responsible “good citizen” at work and in the society while expressing rather harsh views toward those outside his or her group. Our data also show that countries differ along similar albeit somewhat broader dimensions of Conservatism. This paragraph's description of the Conservative syndrome is a narrative listing of psychological processes captured by the scales and items that define Conservatism factor in this and other studies of ours.

Another conceptually related construct of (Anti- or Amoral) Social Attitudes that defines a bipolar factor with Personality correlates with cognitive abilities at the individual, but not at the country level of analysis. The Amoral Social Attitudes factor captures people's endorsement of toughness in dealing with fellow human beings. This is not a part of the Conservatism syndrome in our studies. Our results also show that Values and Social Norms do not correlate with cognitive ability at the individual level.

The above summary of the findings suggests that although there is a similarity between the individual-level and country-level factor structures, the differences are also quite pronounced, especially if one considers correlations of factor scores with the external country-level variables. It is tempting to conclude that differences are due to the fusion of Values and Social Norms factors into the two broad between-countries factors. It may be argued that this fusion leads to one between countries factor having high correlations and the other having low correlations with external variables. This will not do. The split is about the same, and therefore both broad factors should be affected in a comparable way. Some of our analyses that are not presented here indicate that the lack of correlation of the Broad Personality/Social Attitudes/Norms factor with cognitive measures at the country level is due to the Personality and Social Attitudes components of this factor. Apart from Conscientiousness, no other personality measure has a significant raw correlation with the cognitive extension variables (e.g., FSI and PISA scores). The same is true for the Toughness and Maliciousness components of the same factor.

We may conclude that, indeed, Conservatism at the individual level and Broad Conservatism at the country level are related to low performance on cognitive ability tests. These tests are used for the assessment of IQ. There is no assumption about the direction of causality in our findings. One is free to speculate, for example, that Conservatism causes low IQ. Alternatively, the two assumptions mentioned in the Introduction are equally plausible. Thus, in accordance with Jost et al. (2003) theory of motivated cognition, less able people cannot see many complexities of the situation and are therefore threatened by a larger number of events in the environment, becoming more conservative in the process. Or, one can postulate a third cause, common to both IQ and Conservatism that may be in operation. At the individual level, this may be rigidity. At the country level, this may be fundamentalism. At both levels it may be the lack of formal education or, indeed, a common source of covariation between IQ, Conservatism, measures of Failed States Index, wealth, the rule of law, democracy, freedom, and potentially a host of other variables.

Given the existence of significant correlations between measures of cognitive abilities and Conservatism, it is reasonable to ask whether one or the other is a stronger marker of various measures of countries' success or failure. The data presented in this paper indicate that Broad Conservatism is a stronger marker than IQ of criteria such as the Failed States Index and measures of wealth, the rule of law, democracy, and freedom.

The data at national level are consistent with the assumption that there exists a common dimension, perhaps best understood as affluence/poverty dimension that is the source of aggregate-level differences. This latent dimension is defined in terms of GDP and other macroeconomic measures. It is also defined in terms of subjective measures of happiness (see Diener & Oishi, 2004), measures of investment in education at the national and state level, health (McDaniel, 2006a, b), and sociological and political indices such as those that define post-materialist dimensions in studies of Inglehart (see Inglehart and Baker, 2000). Psychological measures of cognitive ability and conservatism are just a part of this conglomerate and we are at the early stages of trying to understand their role within the network of sociological and political variables and influences.


The work reported in this paper was carried out while the author was employed by Educational Testing Service (ETS). The opinions expressed in this paper are those of the author, not of ETS.

Part of this material is based on research sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory, under agreement number FA9550-04-1-0375. The views and conclusions contained herein are those of the author and should not be interpreted as necessarily representing the official policies or endorsements, either expressed or implied, of the Air Force Research Laboratory or the U.S. Government.

I am grateful to Larry Stricker, Walter Emmerich, Nat Kogan, Gerard Saucier and Cathy Wendler and four anonymous reviewers for their comments on several earlier version of this paper.



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E-mail addresses:,

1. The remaining 23 topics from the list are: death penalty, astrology, x-rated movies, modern art, women's liberation, foreign aid, federal housing, democrats, military drill, the military draft, capitalism, segregation, moral majority, pacifism, censorship, nuclear power, living together, republicans, divorce, school prayer, unions, socialism, and busing (Bouchard et al., 2003).

2. An unknown reviewer pointed to the fact that Values and Social Norms may be related to “moral” behavior and that neo-Piagetian theories argue for the link between such behavior and cognitive ability. This link is tenuous — measures of both Values and Social Norms are relatively new and their relationship to moral behavior is unknown at present.

3. I am grateful to an unknown reviewer who called to my attention the recent work of LeBreton and Tonidandel (2008). These authors have developed an improved procedure based on multivariate relative weights that can be used to evaluate the importance of predictors included in a regression analysis. I shall use this procedure in future analyses of our data. L. Stankov / Intelligence 37 (2009) 294–304 301

4. Countries can be replaced by political units within a country such as states within the US and similar analyses can be carried out. Kanazawa (2006) and McDaniel (2006a,b) show that estimated states' IQ correlate moderately with the economic performance of the states. In this context it is interesting that political conservatism assessed as a percentage of people within the states who voted for G. W. Bush in 2004 has low negative correlation (−.14) with the wealth of states.

5. I am grateful to H. Rindermann for his help in carrying out regression analyses using IQ and Conservatism scores for the countries included in the present study.

6. It is worth noting that the correlation between wealth (i.e., GDP) and estimated countries' IQ (.65) is close to the correlations between these variables that have been reported in the literature (e.g., .63 reported by Rindermann, 2008a,b). This can be interpreted as evidence that our selection of countries listed in Table 4 is not biased. 302 L. Stankov / Intelligence 37 (2009) 294–304
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Re: Conservatism and Cognitive Ability, by Lazar Stankov, et

Postby admin » Tue Dec 22, 2015 1:55 am

Poll: 30% of Republicans Want to Bomb a Fictional Disney Country
A whole new world of magic carpet bombing Aladdin's home.
by Miles E. Johnson
December 18, 2015



According to Public Policy Polling, a recent poll of 532 Republican primary voters found that 30 percent supported bombing Agrabah. The only problem is that Agrabah is the fictional country from the Disney movie Aladdin.

PublicPolicyPolling @ppppolls
30% of Republican primary voters nationally say they support bombing Agrabah. Agrabah is the country from Aladdin. #NotTheOnion
8:22 AM - 18 Dec 2015

Public Policy Polling was founded in 2001 and, according to its website, aims to "address inefficiencies in public policy surveys" by using efficient, mathematical polling strategies. Not everyone is pleased with this news, and some have cried foul on Twitter.

And Democrat primary voters? What do they say? No, it’s just hilarious when you trick REPUBLICANS.
— Ellen L. Carmichael (@ellencarmichael)
December 18, 2015

Carolyn Parker @Skonialo
@ppppolls Try asking Dems the same question. This is why media is no longer credible.
8:23 AM - 18 Dec 2015

Actually, they did. Of the Democratic primary voters who were asked the same question, 36 percent opposed bombing Agrabah, compared with 19 percent who supported the action.

PublicPolicyPolling @ppppolls
We asked the Agrabah question to Dem primary voters too. They oppose bombing 'it' 36/19, while GOP supports bombing 'it' 30/13
9:23 AM - 18 Dec 2015

In this same poll, 26 percent of Republican voters thought that Islam should be illegal in the United States, and 46 percent supported a Muslim national database, an idea proposed by Republican front-runner Donald Trump.

See all the results below.
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