Saturday, March 03, 2007

IQ and Classical Music: I like to listen to Yahoo's internet radio, but am bothered by the fact that they offer 316 stations, only one of which is a classical station. I can get Tupac Radio, Booty Time, Uber Indie, Outlaw Country, Gay Club Mix, Klezmer, and Salsa Cien Por Ciento, but the greatest artists in the history of the world only rate one station? Tupac gets a whole one for himself: where's my "Beethoven 24/7"?

The country is just not smart enough for Vivaldi. I looked at the General Social Survey, and the IQ threshold seems to be about 125: any lower than this, and not even one-quarter of people really enjoy listening to classical music. Now you might suspect that it's simply a matter of taste and background and that intelligence doesn't have much to do with it. According to the data, the correlation between IQ and liking this kind of music is .30--a noteworthy connection.


  1. I wouldn't dispute that there is an IQ threshold for general classical music appreciation, but I'd also add another cultural factor to the mix.

    Classical music is generally less appreciated because it usually requires effort to enjoy. Often one has to listen to a piece 20 or more times before being equipped to really judge it or not. This isn't the case with pop music, which is immediately accessible. An investment like that is anathema to our contemporary laziness and passivity and the attitude that demands immediate entertainment to saturate our environment.

  2. But that is the essence of enjoying classical music. There is really no effort to listening to a piece 20 times or more because you enjoy listening to it over and over.

    For more classical music stuff check


  3. Do you have any links for the studies you cite?

    Just curious at the .3, what the actual numbers are.

  4. louis-philippe: Almost all the findings I cite are from my own online analysis of General Social Survey data conducted at the SDA Archive website:

  5. Thanks! Interesting stuff.

  6. Linda Gottfredson has remarked that the quickest conversational question you can ask to establish if somebody is not dumb is "Do you like classical music?" If they like it, they have an IQ at least average.

    A weirder correlation is this: why do Ramones fans tend to have higher IQs than Led Zeppelin fans, despite the much more sophisticated musicianship of Zep?

  7. If you are looking for a station online, wmht in upstate NY is about the best.

    I live out in the country in Massachusetts and can catch 3 stations, one, wcrb, in Boston is even a commercial station. wmht is better than the three.

    wmht is npr and they do do a begathon, but it is not horribly obnoxious. There is very little of the biased news. It is about the only socialist enterprise I have ever got any benefit from.

  8. Anonymous10:22 AM

    And the difference between Gay Club Mix and just plain old Cub Mix is what exactly? For a dead guy Tupac puts out alot of albums and makes many movie appearances too. I ahve to add that Ramones fans have nothing on G & R fans. Our average IQs are somewhere in the mid to upper 80's.

  9. And isn't jazz considered to be a more sophisticated musical genre than rock or some of the others? It's certainly more difficult to play (and be any good at). I'd be interested what the IQ scores look like for regular listeners of jazz as opposed to rock, R & B, rap, and so on.

  10. I looked at the General Social Survey, and the IQ threshold seems to be about 125: any lower than this, and not even one-quarter of people really enjoy listening to classical music.

    Wah? The average IQ I get for people who like classical music 'very much' (the highest category) is 103 (6.94)! 20% of those have IQs below 90.

    This is still not as high as people that like Opera (105/7.23) and New Age (103/7.00), and not that different from people who prefer Showtunes (103/6.90).

  11. Steve Sailer6:18 PM

    By the way, you should check to see if self-proclaimed classic music fans can name a composer whose name doesn't beging with "B."

  12. Sheesh, Steve, even a philistine like me knows about that Chai Cough Ski fella.

    I'm more into Zep than the Ramones, but I'd say that like the Dictators the Ramones appeal to "smart guys who are into dumb stuff in a hip ironic fashion". Both bands were made up of Ashkenazi jews, who are known for their high IQs. There are plenty of classic rock stations that play Zeppelin, but I virtually never hear punk (or proto-punk, if that's what you want to call the Ramones, Dictators, Stooges, Dead Boys, Rocket From the Tombs and Velvet Underground) on commercial radio. It is played on college stations though. Controlling for urban vs rural and years of education might give different results.

  13. Jason: One reason my story is different is that I was looking at percentage distributions instead of means, but I am getting different means than you for some reason. Look at my post.

  14. Mr. Sailer,

    I don't know, but here are two guesses:

    One, the Ramones were a purposeful return to simplicity in reaction to the pretensions of arena rock. The Ramones, therefore, were making an ironic and critical statement about the existing popular musical culture, and it took at least a bit of intelligence to get their point.

    Two, their lyrics were often witty. Again, it takes a few brains to appreciate wit. I mean, they rhymed "Don’t talk to commies" with "Eat kosher salamis." You need to conclude that such lyrics are either laughable incompetence or hilarious mockery.

  15. Steve Sailer6:43 PM

    "Now I'll have to tell 'em
    That I got no cerebellum."
    -- Teenage Lobotomy

  16. amanda2:48 PM

    Hi, I'm doing a study on the correlation between listening to rap music and IQ scores for one of my classes and I'd like to cite your findings in my paper. Have you written a research report or anything similar or do you have your procedure/exact findings? It would be very helpful, and as soon as you get a chance. Thanks!

  17. Amanda: This blog is the only place I have reported my results. Just cite the blog address following whater format you use in your discpline, and use the name Ronald Guhname. I used this website to analyze the data (General Social Survey):

    Thanks for wanting to acknowledge my analysis.


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