Lower Cognitive Ability Predicts Greater Prejudice Through Right‐Wing Ideology and Low Intergroup Contact

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.


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