IQ study rates as a no-brainer

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AT FIRST, I thought there had been some mistake. Perhaps the researchers at Manchester University were confused about what the abbreviation meant when they declared, last week, that men have higher IQs than women: perhaps they thought the letters stood for Irritant Quotient. That would, at least, make some kind of sense.

But no. Apparently the completely unpartisan, absolutely-no-axe-to-grind male academics - Professor Richard Lynn and Dr Paul Irwing - who studied 20,000 IQ tests taken by university students - were in earnest when they claimed the results proved men had bigger brains and higher intelligence than women.

According to their findings, women's IQs fall short of their male counterparts by five points, making them less likely to be declared geniuses or to win a Nobel prize. Some solace for women can be found in the knowledge that there is no correlation between being clever and being happy - previous studies having shown that superior intelligence can generate its own particular brand of misery.

Still, surely someone ought to be taking up the cudgels on behalf of the sisterhood, and exposing these claims - from the Michael Buerk school of social comment - as fallacious.

Unfortunately, it won't be me. I'm in no position to make a case for women's perspicacity, my own brainpower having decreased exponentially with each of my three babies. Indeed, I recently failed a 'How Likely Are You To Get Alzheimer's?' test because I lacked the concentration to read to the end of the newspaper article. Most of the questions I did see lacked a box extreme enough for me to tick.

While the experts asked, "Do you ever come out of a shop without having bought the one thing you went in for?", they neglected to inquire, "Have you ever wheeled a trolley laden with shopping out of a supermarket only to remember that you no longer own a car?" And although they took on board the fact that some people forget commonplace words, there was not even a passing mention of those poor souls whose entire vocabulary has been reduced to a series of animal noises.

Some outsiders might see such behaviour as evidence of a low IQ, but I prefer to put it down to exhaustion. Equally, not everyone will perceive the peculiarly male 'talents' identified by the Manchester report as proof of men's superior intelligence.

According to the researchers, men are better suited to "tasks of great complexity", making them more likely than women to become chess grand masters or Mastermind champions or - OK, I'm guessing now - fanatical cataloguers of CD collections or listers of obscure car registration numbers.

For higher IQ, then, you could just as easily read 'higher geek factor'; for prodigiously clever you could read 'unutterably anal'.

The suspicion that men's allegedly superior brains might be more of a hindrance than a help is borne out by the report. It goes on to say that for any given level of IQ, women are able to achieve more than men. This is probably because women are "more conscientious and better adapted to sustained periods of hard work", as anyone who has ever watched a man clean out an oven will know. "Men's extra brainpower is not used for everyday tasks," the report adds.

It seems, then, that the five extra IQ points men inherit as their birthright are as likely to turn them into compulsive obsessives whose mental prowess is of no practical use to those around them, as it is to create Nobel prize winners. That being the case, they can keep them.