Tuesday, January 11, 2011

IQ and what you are looking for in a friend

GSS respondents were asked: "I'm going to read seven qualities one might look for in a personal friend. All of the qualities may be desirable ones for a personal friend, but I'm interested in those that are most important to you. As I read each one, could you tell me whether it is extremely important (1), very important (2), fairly important (3), not too important (4), or not at all important (5): Intelligent."  For four sex-race groups, I correlated this measure with the WORDSUM measure (a vocabulary test) which serves as a proxy of IQ:

Correlations (sample size = 1,009)

White males -.03
White females -.21
Black males -.03
Black females .24

Weird results. Wanting a smart friend is basically unrelated to IQ for white and black men. I wonder if the non-correlation is due to the fact that many people have inaccurate views of their own intelligence. 

There is a tendency for intelligent white women to want smart friends, but more intelligent black women are more likely than dull ones to say that having a smart friend is not important. I might be tempted to interpret this as anti-intellectualism among blacks, but black men do not show the same pattern. Your thoughts?  


  1. Is there a typo? The correlation coefficient for white women is negative and that for black women is positive. That seems to contradict your discussion. I would think that your results mean that white women are LESS interested in having smart friends as their own WORDSUM increases and black women are MORE interested.

  2. I probably should have reversed the values assigned to the friend answer to make the results clearer. For white females, high score on IQ are associated with low scores on thinking smart friends are UNimportant. Confusing, I know.

  3. Honestly this seems like noise to me.

    What are the t-stats? Did you mine for any other demographic factors?

  4. Anonymous5:04 AM

    Perhaps this is because more intelligent white women are more status-conscious and can still usually marry/date/friend "up" with a higher-status white man who will be perceived as more intelligent. More intelligent black women, on the other hand, are very likely to have to marry/date/friend "down" with a lower-status black man who will be perceived as less intelligent.

    So this could possibly be due to women's inaccurate views about men's intelligence based on education, income, and social status. For example, a black woman who went to college might think she is smarter than just about any black man who didn't, or a white woman with a PhD might consider herself less intelligent than a man with just a bachelor's if he makes more money.

    Anyway I would be interested to see the average score for each group rather than just the correlation with wordsum. For example you wrote "I might be tempted to interpret this as anti-intellectualism among blacks" but the correlation does not compare blacks to whites - it compares black women of greater and lesser intelligence.

  5. My first thought is reference group. I'll bet that people with high IQ=130 have a different threshold for who counts as intelligent than people with IQ=70. This would easily explain the lack of correlation. High IQ people do want smarter friends, but that shows up not in them thinking they want smarter friends but in them defining "smarter" up.

    The correlation for black females I have no good theory.

    Do black females experience different degrees of IQ-sorting for friends/acquaintances than do other people? And does this somehow affect their reference group? There are a lot more black females around universities, for example, than black males.


Which ethnic groups think astrology is scientific?

It is important for America that we have people who understand and value science.  The General Social Survey asked people residing in the US...