Why Beautiful People are Intelligent

While doing some research on voter behavior, I came across the website of Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics. Evolutionary psychologists study human behavior on a mass scale, tracking large samples of people across cultures.

They study questions such as the degree to which intelligence determines success, what sort of things men and women look for in their mates, whether monogamy is workable, why we discriminate on the basis of gender and race, and whether attractive people fare better than ugly ones. Evolutionary psychology is fascinating to some people, disturbing to other people, and both things at once to most.  Generally, the findings annihilate the comforting platitudes and improving slogans your parents or your religion may have taught you:

  • Your success in life will largely be determined by your intelligence, which, in turn, is strongly determined by your parents’ genes and good nutrition.
  • Men prefer young, attractive women, while women prefer high-status, wealthy men.
  • All things considered, beautiful people (especially women) have it easy in life, because people like and trust them more and because they’re generally smarter than ugly people.
  • Our basic disposition is to fear and distrust people of different races and ethnicities, especially if they are visually different from us.
  • Things that are essential to who ‘you’ are (tastes in clothing, books, and music; general disposition; political and religious opinions) are influenced by your genes much more than you might want to acknowledge.
  • In the absence of strong social taboos, lifelong monogamy is rare. As men age and increase in status and wealth, they will divorce their aging wives and marry younger women, who will be attracted to them because of their increasing status and wealth.  The older wives they divorce are unlikely to remarry.

Don’t try to disprove these assertions by reference to some individual case of a long-lasting marriage or dumb, successful pop star. We’re talking about general rules here. Even a roomful of 90-year-old smokers doesn’t disprove the link between smoking and cancer.  And besides, for every counter-example, you can cite dozens of confirming examples, such as intelligent, high-status, wealthy, hideously ugly men discarding their aging wives and marrying beautiful young women. Men like Slavoj Zizek and Salman Rushdie.

Kanazawa appears frenetically productive, and tends to write short, punchy papers taking aim at one or another sacred cow.  They’re all available online, and have catchy titles such as Why Beautiful People are More Intelligent (pdf):

From the evolutionary psychological perspective, there are theoretical reasons to expect that higher status men [who, by hypothesis and according to most studies, are more intelligent] and beautiful women marry each other. Buss’ (1994) extensive cross-cultural data on criteria of mate selection indicate that men in all cultures prefer physically attractive women as their mates, and women in all cultures prefer wealthy men of high status as their mates. There have also been experimental demonstrations that men prefer to mate with physically attractive women and women prefer to mate with socially dominant men…. Because not every man can marry a beautiful woman, and not every woman can marry a wealthy man of high status (even in polygynous societies), it is natural to assume that more desirable (i.e., higher-status) men will marry more desirable (i.e., beautiful) women. The process of assortative mating should unite higher-status men and physically attractive women in mateships.

or Teaching May Be Hazardous to Your Marriage (pdf):

Few occupations and professions afford greater opportunities to come in contact with women in their teenage years than teachers in secondary and postsecondary schools. These teachers experience the cumulative effect of exposure to young, attractive women who are at their peak reproductive value more acutely than people in most other occupations…. [M]ale teachers in secondary and postsecondary schools should be more dissatisfied with their mates than other people. If there are behavioral consequences to their dissatisfaction, then these male teachers should be more likely to be divorced or separated than others…. [S]imultaneously being male and being a secondary school teacher or college professor statistically significantly increases the likelihood of being currently divorced.

6 thoughts on “Why Beautiful People are Intelligent

  1. Kanazawa’s ideas and especially his methodological shortcomings are legendary. I warmly recommend Andrew Gelman’s superb blog “Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science”, especially the follwing entries:

    How should unproven findings be publicized?

    Problems in a study of girl and boy births, leading to a point about the virtues of collaboration

    The most beautiful people in the world . . . and a request for a favor (see the very bottom of this entry)


  2. “[S]imultaneously being male and being a secondary school teacher or college professor statistically significantly increases the likelihood of being currently divorced.”… OR GAY. I am a language teacher and I hardly find a heterossexual man down here that teaches english/spanish/german…hehe


  3. Until proven otherwise, Satoshi Kanazawa, and his ilk are simply the sophisitcated heirs of Spencer and the rest of the racist psychometricians of the 19th and 20th centuries. That Kanazawa’s subjects and presentations are glib rather than stodgy should not be mistaken for objectivity, nor should endorsement of this alleged school of thought, sans consideration of serious criticisms of its methodology, be mistaken for openmindedness.


  4. > nor should endorsement of this alleged school of thought, sans consideration of serious criticisms of
    > its methodology, be mistaken for openmindedness

    We are, um, dogmatically open minded over here, James, didn’t you know? A fundamentalism of sorts – as long as the subject is amusing. Once it isn’t, however, we tend to get somewhat rigid – al-hamdulillah! Don’t you be a stiff about this, ok?


  5. Belief in evolutionary psychology may be hardwired, study says.
    TITLE: No son los negros, ni los blancos. Los guapos son los más inteligentes!
    URL: http://www.desdeelexilio.com/2007/10/19/no-son-los-negros-ni-los-blancos-los-guapos-son-los-mas-inteligentes/
    BLOG NAME: Desde el exilio
    DATE: 10/19/2007 06:27:55 PM
    Como lo leen. La gente guapa es la mas lista. Ahora entiendo yo por qu las feministas radicales son todas tan feas y por qu los hombres feos terminan siendo misginos: no dan para ms. Lean, lean.
    Llego va German T…


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