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The cold and the intelligent December 15, 2010

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, gifted, humor, research.
Tags: ,

I was very amused to come across an article posted by Hoagies Gifted on Facebook:

A Compensation for Cold Weather: Higher IQs

The article is an amusing explanation of the fact that there is a strong correlation between higher-than-average IQs and latitude in the continental US. It also discusses a few hypotheses about why this may be true.

I looked up the original paper, and it actually didn’t have much more information than the article. I was hoping for a listing of states so I could hold it over the heads of my friends who live elsewhere.

My personal guess is that the cold weather keeps our neurons from overheating…but I digress.

I have to admit that I’m surprised I didn’t see the most obvious possibility discussed. While I would love to claim the label ‘brainiac’ that was so kindly bestowed upon me and my fellow colleagues at NDSU, I think the real reason is the uneven distribution in population.

The average IQ is higher. If you look at population statistics, one would note that northern states also tend to be some of the least populous states. However, these states also have reasonably sized universities and, in general, a better educated population. Doesn’t it make sense that having a handful of universities in a state like North Dakota could skew the values a bit more than plopping the same size university in a place like Los Angeles?

In North Dakota, two of the largest employers in the state are NDSU and UND. Next in line are many of the state’s medical providers and Microsoft. Having a few thousand college professors, doctors, and Microserfs, who can safely be assumed to have higher than average IQs, is going to have a big impact in a state with less than a million people.

Fortunately, I have a higher than average IQ, so I can figure these things out. 😉



1. Charles J Gervasi - December 15, 2010

It must be based on population. The WI north woods is very different from Madison.


2. Luke Holzmann - December 16, 2010

[smile] Unfortunately, I live in Colorado–so I can only smile and nod and pretend like I understand what’s going on.

Very fun. Thanks for sharing!



3. Fluxor - December 16, 2010

P(Sarah Palin’s IQ) > P(Barack Obama’s IQ)

It all makes sense now.


4. FrauTech - December 16, 2010

My theory was the same as why football is a bigger deal in colder climates. It’s too cold to go out and do your own thing for much of the year, so people are drawn to crowds and beer because it’s the only game in town so to speak. If you live in a temperate climate year round you can go out and walk or run or even swim a lot more frequently. So maybe when the weather is poorer, you might stay inside and study more as a child rather than go out and play. But that’s supposing early childhood development has a strong impact on IQ, which I don’t know. Your theory is a better one I think.


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