"Despite their important implications for interpersonal behaviors and relations, cognitive abilities have been largely ignored as explanations of prejudice. We proposed and tested mediation models in which lower cognitive ability predicts greater prejudice, an effect mediated through the endorsement of right–wing ideologies (social conservatism, right–wing authoritarianism) and low levels of contact with out–groups. In an analysis of two large–scale, nationally representative United Kingdom data sets (N = 15,874), we found that lower general intelligence (g) in childhood predicts greater racism in adulthood, and this effect was largely mediated via conservative ideology. A secondary analysis of a U.S. data set confirmed a predictive effect of poor abstract–reasoning skills on antihomosexual prejudice, a relation partially mediated by both authoritarianism and low levels of intergroup contact. All analyses controlled for education and socioeconomic status. Our results suggest that cognitive abilities play a critical, albeit underappreciated, role in prejudice. Consequently, we recommend a heightened focus on cognitive ability in research on prejudice and a better integration of cognitive ability into prejudice models."
(Gordon Hodson and Michael A. Busseri, 2012)
Hodson, G. and M. Busseri (2012). "Bright Minds and Dark Attitudes: Lower Cognitive Ability Predicts Greater Prejudice Through Right–Wing Ideology and Low Intergroup Contact." Psychological Science 23(2): 187–195.
"The old one–dimensional categories of 'right' and 'left', established for the seating arrangement of the French National Assembly of 1789, are overly simplistic for today's complex political landscape. For example, who are the 'conservatives' in today's Russia? Are they the unreconstructed Stalinists, or the reformers who have adopted the right–wing views of conservatives like Margaret Thatcher?
On the standard left–right scale, how do you distinguish leftists like Stalin and Gandhi? It's not sufficient to say that Stalin was simply more left than Gandhi. There are fundamental political differences between them that the old categories on their own can't explain. Similarly, we generally describe social reactionaries as 'right–wingers', yet that leaves left–wing reactionaries like Robert Mugabe and Pol Pot off the hook."
[Despite the usefulness of the ''Political Compass'' questionnaire the results clearly illustrate the problem with attempting to make such direct correlations.]
[Yes Prime Minister is an interactive parody of Australia's ex–Prime Minister John Winston Howard. The interactive toy works as a kind of digital 'fridge magnet poetry' through allowing users to re–mix Little Johnny's speeches for humorous effect. The toy was created by the Australian communications agency 'Thought By Them'.]
"This test only has one question, but it's a very important one. By giving an honest answer, you will discover where you stand morally. The test features an unlikely, completely fictional situation in which you will have to make a decision. Remember that your answer needs to be honest, yet spontaneous. You are in Darwin, Northern Territory. There is chaos all around you caused by a cyclone with severe flooding. This is a flood of biblical proportions. You are a photojournalist working for a major newspaper, and you're caught in the middle of this epic disaster. The situation is nearly hopeless. You're trying to shoot career–making photos. There are houses and people swirling around you, some disappearing under the water. Nature is unleashing all of its destructive fury. Suddenly you see a man floundering in the water. He is fighting for his life, trying not to be taken down with the debris. You move closer – somehow the man looks familiar. You suddenly realise who it is. It's John Howard. At the same time you notice that the raging waters are about to pull him under. You have two options, you can save the life of 'Little Johnny' or you can shoot a dramatic Pulitzer Prize winning photo, documenting the death of the Australian Prime Minister. So here's the question, and please give an honest answer: Would you select colour film, or would you go with the high contrast black and white?"
[This email has likely circulated the Internet for a while. While the specifics of the story may have been altered, its general thrust will likely be the same. Witty emails like this one provide an avenue for public commentary (in this case about the former Australian Prime Minister John Winston Howard).]