Paper Review: IQ and Rationality


Ritchie, Stuart – 2017 – Review of The Rationality Quotient by Stanovich et al.


From Stuart Ritchie’s review of “The Rationality Quotient” by Keith Stanovich et al.:

But it was the reported correlation of the [Comprehensive Assessment of Rational Thinking] with IQ-type tests that was really unexpected, given the authors’ argument that they measure very different constructs. A cognitive composite—made up of tests of analogies, antonyms, and a word checklist (Table 13.11)—was found to have a correlation with the full-scale CART of 0.695. 0.695!

That’s the extent to which actual IQ tests typically load on the g factor and each other. One might even go so far as to propose that rationality is intelligence.

The notion that intelligent people are more prone to irrationality is a cognitive bias, though a very understandable one. The Newton who obsesses over the occult is just considerably more noticeable than some nutter ranting about the End Times.

Greg Cochran counters that Western intellectuals were more likely to fall for “destructive nonsense” than plumbers during the 20th century. I suspect that was more due to intellectuals not understanding plumbers, neither then nor now, rather than any failure of rationality per se. In everyday life, people tend to associate with people of similar intelligence, and have a social circle of about 150 friends and acquaintances.

And guess what? Communism works great within monasteries and universities.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. Santoculto says

    Intelligence is a broad and vague concept.

    You can be intelligent for yourself, at selfish way.

    For example, this days [not just in this days] to be conformist with the government propaganda is a intelligent attitude.

    But to be really intelligent, in this example, you must need to be [minimally] self-aware [to start] to understand what you are doing, pros and cons. So if you know that what you are doing will have bad consequences for other people [and beings*) and you don’t care, so this will say something less sympathetic about your own character.

    Rationality is more objective/narrow concept. People who weight their own attitudes, look for more than one perspective to provide the best judgment, tend to be more reasonable/rational than those who are fanatically more prone to buy only one of the sides and become a partisan.

    Basically, some people are addicted to understand only ”half” of reality they are interacting.

    Rational people tend to analyse both sides.

    So for example, capitalism or comunism partisans are clearly less reasonable/rational than those who see strenghts and problems in both political system.

    We can see that rational people are analytically perfectionist.

    Rationality is strongly associated with moral perspective, in the way, you always need analyse circunstances via moral values to be characteristically/ideally rational.

    The best ”test” for rationality or any other ”psychological construct” is to analyse people attitudes in the real world, as my example.

    About intelligence or any other psychological construct we have two value of comparison and or description: size/or extension and quality.

    So, if IQ measure the size/delineate cognitive borders of people’s intelligence, higher IQ people can be quasi-universally considered as ”those who have greater/bigger intelligence’s” but not ”those who have better intelligence’s”.

    I mean whatever their cognitive limitations or potentials, it’s extremely important how you deal/administer your intelligence. You can be a Luxembourg or a … Russia* 😉

  2. I don’t know what this CART thing is, so I don’t know how well it really measures rationality. Do I think that 150 IQ people are more rational on average than 125 IQ or 100 IQ people? No. But that’s a subjective impression of mine.

    Early Communism was horrible, but the late kind, the kind I grew up with, worked great. Economics, aka libertardianism, was proven to he a sham beyond any shadow of a doubt in the 1990s. There were roughly 25 independent experiments – 15 Soviet republics plus the countries of Eastern Europe. The introduction of the market decreased the standard of living in every one of them. Economists’ ideas failed every single one of those tests.

    There’s been a recovery since, but in many places it coincided with, and I would say likely caused, by backtracking away from libertardian ideas. For obvious reasons, as an economy becomes more market-oriented, it delivers less customer/citizen satisfaction per dollar of GDP. So while the recovery was real, its amount is overestimated by GDP figures.

    The positive feelings that lots of people have in the affected region in regards to the 1990s are entirely ethno-nationalist in origin. The collapse in the standard of living is usually acknowledged, but weighed against national independence.

    Libertardians can’t even honestly say that the thing that was tried in the 1990s wasn’t economics. Gaidar, Chubais, Larry Summers, etc. were all economists. When pressed, libertardians will often blame their religion’s failure on the difficulties of transition. But if their stuff is so much better than state-run systems, why should there have been any decrease in the standard of living during the transition period? Shouldn’t any drop of their precious, life-giving market on the parched ground of statism have produced a positive result in the first year?

  3. Self-control is positively correlated with IQ. Smart people are less susceptible to addiction, less likely to take risks for short-term gratification. I suspect that this affects earnings, and especially wealth, more than actual intelligence.

    Most high-paying jobs aren’t very cognitively demanding. Most cognitively-demanding jobs (academia, engineering) aren’t very high-paying. As I said above, I don’t think high-IQ people have more common sense than average-IQ people. I’m talking about the sort of common sense that a manager needs, not just the kind that’s needed to understand that libertarianism is bad.

    I used to watch CNBC a lot. IT is the only industry where big-time CEOs are very smart. In all the others they didn’t seem to be far above average. 110 to 120 maybe. And I’m talking about huge companies like GE, Ford, Boeing, etc.

    British politicians are much smarter on average than American ones. But has Britain ever been better-run than America? I don’t think so. Not saying that it’s run any worse either. About the same I guess.

    If g is mostly just working memory, why should it affect self-control? Through what mechanism? I guess the same evolutionary pressures might have led to an increase in both. But would that necessarily explain why within the same population a higher IQ individual is likely to have more self-control than a lower-IQ individual? Maybe there is a link between the two within each individual, not just within each ethnic group on average. I don’t know how it would work though.

  4. You, sir, are the living embodiment of Santoculto’s very accurate comment above.

  5. I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean. Do you deny that the introduction of market economics caused an enormous fall in the standard of living in every single ex-Soviet republic and eastern European country in the early 1990s? As I said in my comment, it’s about 25 separate economies, about 25 tests of the libertardian belief system. How many failed tests in a row would be enough for your belief in that system to be shaken? 125? 225?

  6. Philip Owen says

    “The introduction of the market decreased the standard of living in every one of them.” Of course there was a slump when the system broke. But not, on the whole for long, particularly those that embraced market economics, as in Central Europe.

  7. Recipe for great community:
    * High IQ
    * Shared identity
    * Small enough everyone knows each other
    * Mandatory exercising in common
    e.g. the prehistoric tribe or the Greek polis?

  8. Santoculto says

    Only for robotic nerds.

  9. I’d almost entirely agree with you, except : what about the Baltics?

    I suppose the standard answer would be demographic collapse, but the standard of living did improve markedly there, did it not? Though perhaps this is more to do with HBD/cultural factors, with Germanic attitudes towards corruption and Balts supposedly having higher average IQ’s than Slavs.
    Same could be said for Czechs. In places were the IQ average is roughly the same as east-Slavs, Hungaria, Romania and the like; they have at best treaded water for 20 years.

  10. The notion that intelligent people are more prone to irrationality is a cognitive bias, though a very understandable one. The Newton who obsesses over the occult is just considerably more noticeable than some nutter ranting about the End Times.

    More than a century before the event, Newton used the Bible to correctly predict the ellipse of the Ottoman Empire and with an accurate time frame. So him correctly predicting the future had more to do with him being Newton than using the Bible (though Nostradamus certainly used the bible in a more straightforwardly by spotting parallels between ancient dynasties described there and French Crown). Einstein banged Marilyn Monroe, was that a diversion from his scientific and humanitarian pursuits?. There is an article in the latest New Scientist (referencing Victor Frankl’s work inspired by his observations in a Nazi concentration camp) about finding meaning in life, and how it’s good, because those who find life meaningful live longer, sleep more soundly, and have better sex. Perhaps a sign that horizontal activities with Ms Baker were where Einstein made his most fulfilling discovery..

    Intellectuals don’t believe in nations or capitalism– everything that just growed instead of being thought up after an ideological justification for its existence was constructed by high IQ people–the same people who would run the world if it was explicitly rational. It’s that simple and has been so since the Enlightenment.
    De Maistre went to Russia after the French Revolution hoping, he said, to find a country not “scribbled on by philosophy.” What he found instead was a Russian intelligentsia eagerly embracing the philosophic superstitions of the French Enlightenment.

    Virtually no philosophers are anything but viscerally anti Trump. Here is a representative one (Grahman Harman) in conversation with the recently departed K-punk
    Graham: In any case, I hope your book shakes things up a bit, because I’m not just finding neo-liberal civilization stale (though less sale than you obviously do). I’m also finding staleness in the Leftist discourse of whatever post-continental philosophy is called. In our circles it is now possible simply to shout “Revolution!” without context or explanation in the middle of a philosophical article and somehow be seen as having taken a serious political position. I’ve seen several cases of this lately. Isn’t the very notion of the Revolution ripe for some re-imagination? Take Badiou, for instance– one of the great heroes of the Leftist element in our circles. Are people really shaken up politically by reading Badiou, or does he not simply provide more evidence for them that: “yes, I was right all along”? I’m not seeing enough evidence of people allowing their political positions to be falsified. It’s just a lot of fuzzy slogans about revolution and neo-liberalism, and the range of acceptable politics is suffocatingly narrow. Don’t people have any smart conservative friends? They ought to get some. It broadens your world and really challenges you to think. Otherwise, you simply get a party game where everyone is trying to outflank everyone in one direction.

    K-punk commuted suicide the other week.

  11. They weren’t separate economies. The Eastern Bloc had a highly integrated economy, designed to be self-sabotaging, in the event any component sought political realignment.

    But all that is besides the point. The system collapsed, not because it was changed, but because it was financially unsustainable. They were illegally borrowing from people’s savings accounts.

    As to the standard of living, that is dubious. People had to queue for the most basic necessities. Many goods, such as cars or appliances, could simply not be bought, except on the black market, and only if one had the means to do so. One’s ability to travel was very limited. For instance if one wanted to travel from Germany to Germany, they had automated rocket launchers which would kill.

    Conversely, as Sweden’s government spending rose to nearly 70% of GDP, it’s GDP fell significantly, and only rose when they cut spending and adopted market reforms.

  12. Same could be said for Czechs. In places were the IQ average is roughly the same as east-Slavs, Hungaria, Romania and the like; they have *at best* treaded water for 20 years.

    Almost every country is doing much better now than it had been doing during Soviet times. Ukraine and Moldova are obvious exceptions. In Poland, for example, the per capita GDP was $1,698 in 1990, and $13,647 in 2013.

    There was a period during the transition when things got worse. This lasted for a couple of years in Poland, 12 years in Romania (which did not see a huge drop as did Russia, but was stagnant a little below the 1991 level until the early 2000s when it took off) and for nearly fifteen years in Russia (which finally caught up to 1991 around 2005, and then kept growing).

    Romania and the Balkans have lower average IQs than does Russia.

  13. Your comment is very factually challenged.

  14. 12 years in Romania (which did not see a huge drop as did Russia, but was stagnant a little below the 1991 level until the early 2000s when it took off)

    “Romania” should have been Hungary, above.

  15. It seems to have mainly been a function of:

    (1) How distorted the economy was in the first place – more so in the USSR itself, less so in ECE.

    (2) How much reform had already been done – e..g, a substantial chunk of Poland’s painful adjustment was done in the 1980s.

    (3) The pace of reform – very fast in Estonia, very slow in Ukraine, intermediate in Russia.

  16. reiner Tor says

    Hungary theoretically (as measured by real wages etc.) has higher living standards than it did before 1990, and certainly a lot of things got better. I remember that as a child, my parents always had grave difficulties finding a pair of shoes for me that fit my feet and were comfortable – how they looked like was secondary. Similarly, they always had to organize to buy bread in the morning or during lunchbreak, because by the evening it was usually gone. The quality of products was also generally lower, and getting anything better quality often required a great deal of work, having well-placed friends, etc.

    On the other hand, meat consumption is still lower than it had been in the 1970s.

  17. dc.sunsets says

    If g is mostly just working memory, why should it affect self-control? Through what mechanism?

    g seems to be related to being able to think through the future consequences of multiple current actions.

    How on Earth would you NOT expect this to relate to self-control?

    Intelligence is often the ability to simply think through a series of POTENTIAL if-then statements on the way to determining conclusions.

    IF I refuse to give into my impulsive mind’s demand to engage in a vice, THEN I benefit in the long run by avoiding the damage that defines that vice.

    This isn’t rocket science. At least, it’s not to me.

  18. dc.sunsets says

    I think any test of “rationality” will be seriously confounded by the level of genetic predisposition to novelty and other attributes found in common among people of Leftist political persuasion (overwhelmingly r-selected individuals.)

    In a small, non-random sample of (a few hundred) people with IQ’s 140+, over half voted for Clinton. To me, this is a measure of irrationality par excellence.

    r/K evolutionary biology predicates, among other things, that those genetically predisposed to r-selection will exhibit what can only be described as irrationally self-destructive behaviors, an example of which might be a young woman (a victim of a previous rape) choosing to socialize with a group of young “refugee” men while intoxicated. A rational mind would see this as inviting a gang rape (which is exactly what occurred.) After a very long period free of resource restriction (such as we have now), r-selected individuals are expected to greatly outnumber K-selected. This is by all appearances the case.

    Until studies begin to control for variables like this, I expect their results to yield nothing but artifacts.

  19. ” found in common among people of Leftist political persuasion (overwhelmingly r-selected individuals”

    Leftists, read: organic leftists, are more R-mentality to mate but not to have kids.

  20. Leftists, read: organic leftists, are more R-mentality to mate but not to have kids.

    High levels of novelty-seeking plus high thresholds for disgust lead to high promiscuity, high hedonism, which drive (among other things) sexually transmitted diseases.

    Some might call this “mating,” but given the disgusting perversions being normalized by the Leftist cult, and given my educational background in the biological sciences, I cannot do so. Mating is sex between male and female individuals, that at least mimics the activity that brings about sexual reproduction.

    Receptive anal intercourse, coprophagy, homosexuality of any kind, sex with animals, etc., is not mating in my dictionary. Some people suggest this is why leftists are so demanding with regard to ideology; they are more likely to eschew “immortality via progeny” so they choose instead to revel in the orgy of statist coercion.

  21. Santoculto says

    ”Receptive anal intercourse, coprophagy, homosexuality of any kind, sex with animals, etc., is not mating in my dictionary”

    Of course, why***


    you can’t over-generalize, put this things in the same packet…well, it’s difficult to do it… for you

    ”Receptive anal intercourse”

    But… you must love to do it with woman, so misogynic

  22. True, there is a correlation between novelty-seeking and higher-intelligence, such as the propensity for utilization of drugs and hedonism. However, more intelligence typically either leads to (a) less matings in a lifetime or (b) delayed sexual interest and (c) delayed sexual action (onset age 30+).

    Intelligence is more k-selected in my view. Women who want to obtain more resources before having offspring, women who want to explore more career opportunities before having a baby, individuals who care more about innovating and producing new technologies and industries/basic research than copulating, solely because we derive so much stimulation from our brain from introspecting ideas, possibilities, blueprints, plans and trying to implement them that when we compare the amount of action-potential release of dopamine and sensitivity to pleasure-associated neurotransmitters in between various activities, intelligence-related activities just simply score higher at the list (engaging in debate and discourse) than other activities.

    So the mechanism of action is (a) higher sensitivity for novelty by artifact of more release of pleasure for novelty, (b) a capacity for a network of working integrated summation potentials, optimized to eliminate irrelevant information and find quick relational analogies and relationships between seemingly unrelated ideas as well as (c) increased broad-level perspective on all the possibilities and outcomes with a driving motivation-factor enacting on maximizing per-value unit of said action. This is obviously observed (“existentially depressed” + “hedonistic tendencies” .. alas simply not caring about the perception of other beings living in a static-state reality of limited preconceptions and behavioral responses) .. chasing after money, chasing after sex (note it is actually wealthier and more educated men that are using prostitutes), chasing after drugs.

    Rationality requires (a) a minimal level of sustenant functioning of comprehension of players and opponents and their recursive effects from each actions as well as the optimality outcome of any given circumstance/space-time-choice stance and (b) a value-function embedded structure that acts like some form of kinesis for ascertaining value with respect to any outcome.

    Everyone has b, but people who lack a simply cannot be rational. Likewise, it is the same thing as having a flu and having everything taste like ‘shit’ because of biochemical imbalances / heating of certain enzymes over others that change your taste palette to have a negative value function or neutral value action for eating. If the same was to be of higher penetration rate amongst more intelligent individuals, we would expect to see the same outcomes of simply refusing or abolishing to align oneself with societal’s expectations, and indeed we do see this. More intelligent individuals tend to be individualist, challenging authorities and/or scheming.
    They might or might not have the capacity to follow through depending on their personality / willingness to engage in deviant behaviour to watch ‘funny outcomes’ like a God controlling the pawns on the battlefield or 5-year old children cramming trucks against each other and yelling ‘yahoo!’ while having a parading entourage of clapping delight for discovering the inanity of humanity (like any good political leader).

  23. dc.sunsets says

    I wonder if my own comments read so similarly as a barely coherent mix of unsupported science and unsupportable conjecture. If so, I apologize now to anyone who reads them.

    Possibly you have good data on the dozen or so claims you made here; I’ve no way to know, and in these times when we drown in reams of data from irreproducible “science,” it wouldn’t really matter to me if you’d voluminously footnoted the entirety.

    I simply posit this: IQ and rationality (the way I define it) appear to be poorly correlated. My experience is that rationality has a strong basis in what we once called Common Sense, and from what I see, Common Sense (as a separate talent) is anything but related to g. They are entirely separate aptitudes, albeit very stupid people rarely appear to have much common sense, so correlation exists on part of the IQ curve.

    The self-selected, bias-saturated subset of very bright people who form the active members of Colloquy Society (IQ minimum 140, or over 2.5 SD above the mean, 1-in-200) demonstrate a considerable lack of common sense as it relates to rational conclusions about politics & predictions, at least from my (admittedly biased) perspective.

    Dunning-Kruger Syndrome posits that persons of high intelligence tend to underestimate their aptitude and those of modest intelligence tend to grossly overestimate theirs. While I find this to be the rule, when it comes to making rational decisions about areas saturated with uncertainty, persons of high IQ appear more likely to reach irrational conclusions vs average people.

    This reinforces my thesis, that Prechter and Elliott are/were correct, that in any environment of pervasive uncertainty, humans make their decisions in the limbic system (which is surely unrelated to IQ) rather than the neo-cortex (the seat of higher intelligence.)

    A person with strong levels of common sense may be able to override the pre-rational cognition of the limbic system in some cases, reaching more rational outcomes than a person of high IQ who is used to overriding their common sense in favor of the elegant, abstruse and typically labyrinthine rationalizations their neo-cortex offers to rationalize what their amygdala chiseled into their minds. At least, this is a decent hypothesis for the brilliant people with whom I’ve chatted who embrace utterly irrational, logically-impossible conclusions about all sorts of human social behavior (e.g., politics and markets.)

    As to your claim that highly intelligent people are late bloomers WRT sex, 1) all surveys about sex are bullshit (no one tells the truth) and 2) whatever correlation exists is an artifact of lots of extremely high IQ people having high levels of social awkwardness. Very, very bright people who lack that social awkwardness behave, in my experience, just like everyone else.

  24. Santoculto says

    ”Intelligence is more k-selected in my view.”

    Probably a artfact of delayed maturation of bigger and/or ‘resourceful” brains.

  25. Santoculto says

    My experience is that rationality has a strong basis in what we once called Common Sense, and from what I see, Common Sense (as a separate talent) is anything but related to g. They are entirely separate aptitudes, albeit very stupid people rarely appear to have much common sense, so correlation exists on part of the IQ curve.

    True. IQ measure more purely cognitive aspects of intelligence, separated one each other and in descontextualized scenarios. Real world intelligence, where rationality is, is to understand intelligence as a organism or entity with many sub-systems [ verbal, mathematical, spatial…. intrapersonal, interpersonal/social … convergent, divergent…) that are integrated one each other and interacting in real world scenarios, in the reality itself, extracting from it real-world answers.

    IQ fractionate intelligence in separated sectors, namely cognitive ones, and measure them via descontextualized/hypothetical questions…

    ”They are entirely separate aptitudes”

    Rationality as well creativity are in the domain of intelligence, they are specific functions of the intelligence, my opinion.

    ”Common Sense (as a separate talent) is anything but related to g”

    Agree, i prefer the term ”Good” than ”common sense”, today to be for example pro-immigration is quasi-common sense, but both tend to correlate.

  26. “IT is the only industry where big-time CEOs are very smart.”

    Having worked, years ago, for Exxon in a HQ position where I had a lot of contact with their top people, I disagree.

    Most of their top people were engineers, geologists, or geophysicists with a smattering of very smart CFO types.

    I don’t think the oil industry could exist w/o highly intelligent leadership.

  27. Zen Master: Intelligence is like having a rifle. Wisdom is knowing where to point it.
    Engineer: Does it matter if the rifle has a scope on it or not?
    Zen Master: No.
    (From the video series “Nymphomaniac Engineer in Zentopia,” mid-22nd century Earth)

    • Chapter heading from “Neoliberal Economists Must Die!” by Timothy J. Gawne, Ballacourage Books.
  28. There are a lot of IQ-fetishists here. There are also a lot of IQ-denialists here.