Less clever men are more likely to cheat. Really?
First Post psychoanalyst Coline Covington tears apart Satoshi Kanazawa’s latest theory
Ashley Cole, John Terry, and Tiger Woods, now famous for their infidelities, are not very clever. It's not just that they got caught - which is never clever - and attracted a bad press. They have shown how unintelligent they are simply by being unfaithful.
That's if you believe the LSE evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa who argues that men with lower IQs are more likely to be unfaithful than smarter guys.
Dr Kanazawa, whose report was published this week in the Social Psychology Quarterly, also claims that men with higher IQs are more likely to be atheist and politically liberal. In short, his message is that people with higher IQs are more "evolved" in their behaviour.
The research findings are drawn from a longitudinal study conducted in the US using a large sample of adolescents who were interviewed in 1994-5 and again in 2001-2 when they were between 18 and 28 years old. Data was also drawn from a cross-national study in the US. The young adults who saw themselves as "very liberal" scored an average IQ of 106 and those that saw themselves as "very conservative" had an average IQ of 95. The adolescents who were atheists had an average IQ of 103, whereas adults who were religious scored an average IQ of 97.
The significance of the difference in IQ scores is arguable and considered by many researchers to be only slight. IQ tests are also highly contentious sources of data for social studies and have been under attack for years. They are used most reliably in testing for educational difficulties amongst school-age children but, even with more sophisticated IQ tests, they cannot factor in all the variables that affect intelligence or necessarily agree on what intelligence is.
Kanazawa is well known for the startling conclusions he has made by extrapolating data from IQ surveys. In an article published in 2006, he claimed that attractive people are 26 per cent less likely to have male offspring. Three years earlier, he produced findings that showed scientists make their most important discoveries in their mid-30s and, similarly, criminals are most productive at this age.
Kanazawa assumes that greater intelligence is linked with increased chances of success and survival
However, Kanazawa created most controversy when he coined the term 'Savanna Principle' referring to his theory that the societal difficulties we face now can be attributed to the fact that the human brain was evolved in Africa thousands of years ago in an environment entirely different from that in which we live today.
Critics of Kanazawa - of which there are many in academic circles - accuse him of questionable data, flawed assumptions, and inappropriate analyses resulting in biased and inadequate interpretations. The most serious criticism is that Kanazawa uses statistical associations as evidence of causality, as in the astounding links he makes in his new study.
Perhaps the most striking assumption that Kanazawa makes as an evolutionary psychologist is that there are signs that our morals and religious and political beliefs are evolving in adaptation to our changing environment.
On the subject of sexual exclusivity, for example, Kanazawa argues that men have always been "mildly polygamous" throughout evolutionary history because it was important to widen the genetic pool. Women, on the other hand, whose IQ scores had no bearing on their sexual fidelity, have always tended towards sexual exclusivity because of child-bearing and their need for male protection.
Now that these evolutionary pressures have diminished, Kanazawa concludes that intelligent people are more likely to adopt new practices that are beneficial in evolutionary terms.
Just as sexual exclusivity is a more evolved response to our environment today than infidelity, Kanazawa extends this argument to religion and politics. With regard to religion, Kanazawa argues that this, too, is a leftover from our evolutionary past as it is principally based on paranoia.
Humans needed to be paranoid in order to protect themselves from the dangers in their environment. Paranoia gives rise to a belief in an omnipotent protector. Conservatives are also environmental relics because their values are self-interested and therefore "primitive" in Kanazawa’s eyes. And so the story goes.
There are several disturbing assumptions that underlie Kanazawa's version of evolutionary psychology. He assumes there is such a thing as moral development that can be identified over time as an environmental adaptation, that greater intelligence (as measured by IQ tests) is linked with increased chances of success and survival, and that sexual exclusivity, atheism and liberalism are all superior in evolutionary terms as compared with their inferior counterparts.
Kanazawa does have his supporters. James Bailey, a leadership professor from George Washington University, agrees that "the adoption of some evolutionary novel ideas makes some sense in terms of moving the species forward. It also makes perfect sense that more intelligent people – people with, sort of, more intellectual power – are likely to be the ones to do that."
However, if Kanazawa and his supporters are right, we might expect to be living in an increasingly enlightened and cooperative world. Unfortunately, there seem to be few signs that we are evolving in this way. In fact, the evidence is dire. War and violence are ever present dangers in our lives and there is little evidence of lessening of evil in the world.
We only have to look around at our politicians, who presumably have a reasonably high IQ (or at least we might hope so), to see how many are conservative, religious and unfaithful to their wives. There is also no indication that humans are any less unfaithful than we were 100 or 200 or 300 years ago. It is likely that the reverse is true, especially given the modern advances in birth control methods.
Kanazawa's view of human behaviour lacks any recognition that there are not only situational pressures but unconscious factors that create behaviour patterns.
An example of this was when the Berlin Wall came down and there was an expectation that the East Berliners would respond to their liberation positively. The opposite happened as depression set in. There was a marked rise in the number of suicides committed by young men as well as a marked increase in abortions among young women.
What had not been factored in was the psychological effect of emerging from a tyrannical and paranoid regime and having to face the destructiveness, hatred and loss that had been suffered and the hopelessness this created.
Kanazawa is reducing the complexity of our psychological lives in order to try to prove his theory that human psychology is developing. He is also promoting the view that evolution entails the development from something "primitive" into something "superior".
Both of these assumptions are not only unproven but dangerous. In effect, Kanazawa is putting a moral spin on evolutionary development that is reminiscent of Hitler's arguments for social eugenics. So is sexual infidelity passé or is it evolutionary psychology that we need to evolve out of? ·
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