Wednesday, March 14, 2007

IQ and alcoholism: I'm interested in the moral character of smart people, so I took a look at the IQs of drunks, using GSS data. People were asked if they have a drinking problem. Here are their mean IQs.

Mean IQ

Has a drinking problem 98.3
Does not 103.1

Has a drinking problem 86.2
Does not 93.2

For whites and blacks, alcoholics are less intelligent. Ideas about why?


  1. One straightforward explanation could be that alcohol disrupts cognitive functioning, something that should be easy to verify. Just remove the alcohol and see if IQ rises. An other way would be to monitor IQ and problem drinking over time. Whichever comes first should clue us into which factor is more likely to be the cause, "IQ" or "problem drinking". To my knowledge, none of my friends from childhood have become alcoholics, so my first-hand experience sheds little light here. It is possible that there is a negative feedback loop (that is, people with low IQs may be more likely to make matters worse in the long term by drinking as a way of coping with their problems).

    A clear head with a sharp mind is a prime source of pure joy. Drinking kills that buzz. Now, caffeine on the other hand ... .

    On a broader note, one of the things that I have noticed is that traditional virtues (such as chastity, prudence, temperance, and so on) seem to be organically associated with high IQ (i.e., being a prudish, timid dweeb seems to grow spontaneously from being a nerd). The results certainly don't stem from social learning. The cultural forces push and entice in the opposite direction.

  2. Modern life is more frustrating day-to-day for lower-IQ people.

  3. Well, of course there are the general sentiments about higher IQ and better impulse control and rational, future-oriented decision-making (e.g., "I'm starting to drink too much, I'd better slow down or I may develop a problem," etc).

  4. First thing I noticed - the less intelligent Whites with a drinking problem are smarter than the Blacks who do not have a drinking problem.

    Clearly it does not take an above average IQ to stay away from the hard stuff. The correlation between IQ and drinking problem is relative to the group.

    More likely, there a social factor here.

    High status Blacks and Whites may conceal a drinking problem because of the social stigma attached to drinking problems (which would incur financial and status penalties).

    So we get a pattern on the GSS where high IQ members of racial groups appear to have fewer drinking problems for no reason other than they decided to conceal them to retain their privileges.

    Since statistically Whites have higher IQs than Blacks if drinking problems correlate absolutely with IQ we should find a greater proportion of Blacks with drinking problems.

    One could also examine whether any absolute correlation between IQ and drink trouble would hold true in ethnically homogenous Finland where environmental factors (long winter nights) do a lot to determine national sobreity.

  5. Here's a thought, and I quote "...were asked if they have a drinking problem", that is an tarnished sample right there. You can't possibly get and proper result that way. You should look at it quantitatively. The real way is to ask the number of drinks consumed per week verses IQ.


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