It’s now well known that many of us over-estimate our own brainpower. In one study, more than 90 per cent of US college professors famously claimed to be better than average at teaching, for instance – which would be highly unlikely. Our egos blind us to our own flaws.
But do we have an even more inflated view of our nearest and dearest? It seems we do – that’s the conclusion of a new paper published in Intelligence journal, which has shown that we consistently view our romantic partners as being much smarter than they really are.
The researchers, Gilles Gignac at the University of Western Australia and Marcin Zajenkowski at the University of Warsaw, also tested whether the couples’ actual IQs influenced their relationship satisfaction – with surprising results.
There had been some previous signs that we are especially optimistic about our loved ones’ attributes. When it comes to physical attractiveness, for instance, we tend to think that we have managed to attract someone who is even hotter than us – an effect sometimes called the “love is blind bias”. But past studies had failed to find a similar optimism for estimates of partners’ intelligence. Overall, people seemed to judge their partners’ intelligence as equal to their own – rather than thinking that they were especially clever.
For the new study, the researchers recruited 218 heterosexual couples, who had been together for an average of six years, and around a quarter were married. Rather that guessing IQ scores – which might be confusing for participants who have little knowledge of IQ tests and their scoring – the participants had to estimate their own intelligence and their partner’s intelligence using a more intuitive, graphical scale (see below). The researchers then converted those estimates to IQ points according to the known statistical distribution of intelligence – the famous bell curve. To find the participants’ actual, objective IQ scores, the researchers also asked them to take a standard test of non-verbal intelligence known as the Raven’s Advanced Progressive Matrices.
As the previous research on individual overconfidence had found, most participants over-estimated their…
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