Do Poor Cognitive Abilities Lead to Anti-LGBT Views?

Where does bigotry come from? What causes a person to single out a group of people to irrationally fear or hate? Such questions have been the subject of much social science research, and there are no simple answers nor are there any cure-all solutions. But what if we began to single out factors that led a person internalize prejudice?

Researchers in Australia aimed to isolate the role of intelligence when it comes to how people view same-sex relationships. From a large sample of 11,654 individuals, researchers scored each person on cognitive ability based on results from three tests: the Backwards Digit Span test, National Adult Reading Test and the Symbol Digits Modalities Test. While most readers are likely familiar with the Intelligence Quotient test, IQ scores are largely considered to be a very narrow measurement of cognitive ability.

Overall, the team discovered that as these test scores fell, so too did the number of individuals who agreed that homosexual couples deserve the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts. This link was especially strong among those who scored low on verbal — reading and comprehension — abilities.

It’s important to keep in mind that these findings are simply trends, not absolutes. That’s to say, not every person who opposes LGBT equality for the LGBT is unintelligent and poorly read, nor is everyone who embraces same-sex relationships a member of Mensa.

Then what does this research mean, practically speaking? The study shows that certain factors — education and literacy, for instance — could very well have a profound impact on social tolerance.

The unfortunately reality is that even in these times, illiteracy persists in the United States. In fact, half of all Americans are unable to read an eighth-grade level book — meaning an enormous number of citizens cannot read and understand articles like this one. Within this group, there are 32 million American adults who cannot read at all.

Currently, the United States ranks seventh in the world on literacy. While that isn’t a particularly shameful position to hold, it more broadly underscores the possible impact of literacy on fighting bigotry. After all, all but one of the countries with higher literacy rankings than the U.S. have legalized gay marriage — and Switzerland, ranked sixth, may legalize same-sex unions this year or next.

Many Americans simply have little desire to read, whether they are able to or not. Roughly one-fourth say that haven’t even read part of a book over the previous year. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

A love of reading must be nurtured at a young age; unfortunately literacy and reading habits — and the lack thereof — tend to persist across generations.

The answer, then, is to expose young minds to the joys of literature at public schools, but a focus on STEM has come at the cost of humanities and arts in recent years. And how functional will a society filled with individuals who can design a bridge or program AI be when they cannot empathize with their fellow Americans?

Photo Credit: Matt Popovich/Unsplash

8 comments

Dr. Jan Hill
Dr. Jan Hill4 months ago

empathy is always a doorway into kindness and acceptance.

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Joan E
Joan E4 months ago

Reading does open a child to empathy for other kinds of people when parents allow a child enough freedom of thought,

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Angela J
Angela J4 months ago

Thanks

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Danii P
Past Member 5 months ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Danii P
Past Member 5 months ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Karen H
Karen H5 months ago

Pam's right. Religion plays a big part. Religion operate on fear (False Evidence Appearing Real). If you don't behave a certain way, your deity will punish you. People call themselves "god-fearing Christians". They're terrified god will punish them if they accept same-sex marriage. They preach that marriage is "between one man and one woman", yet ignore the fact that King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. They also ignore Jesus telling them divorce and remarriage is committing adultery and Commandment #7 says "Thou shalt not commit adultery". I'd like them to show me where Christ said homosexuality is wrong. Paul had a problem with it, but Jesus didn't. Religious folks seem to believe, "There's something I don't understand. It's evil!" A little education goes a long way.

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pam w
pam w5 months ago

People brainwashed by religion will ''baaaaa'' like sheep whenever their ''leaders'' tell them to do it. NOWHERE in the bible does Jesus offer any opinion about same-gender love. NOWHERE. (Nor does he mention abortion...another issue.)

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Dave fleming
Dave fleming5 months ago

TFS

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