Rejection reduces IQ
March 17, 2002 2:09 PM   Subscribe

Rejection reduces IQ "To live in society, people have to have an inner mechanism that regulates their behaviour. Rejection defeats the purpose of this, and people become impulsive and self-destructive. You have to use self-control to analyse a problem in an IQ test, for example - and instead, you behave impulsively"
posted by zeoslap (21 comments total)
Aggression scores increased in the rejected groups. But the IQ scores also immediately dropped by about 25 per cent, and their analytical reasoning scores dropped by 30 per cent.

I really wonder how these "aggression scores" and "reasoning scores" get assigned. Anyone know of a more detailed article on the subject?

I also wonder how long they waited after the rejection experiences to give the IQ tests. I mean, if you upset someone and then give them a test that requires thinking, I think it's natural to expect the score to drop from the person's usual. Though, one would also expect the score to go back up when the person gets in to a better mood. This also makes me wonder if they would get similar results by upsetting the subjects in some other way.
posted by epimorph at 2:26 PM on March 17, 2002

This is rather egregious example of overstating your conclusions and downplaying alternative explanations. Baumeister ‘s data has alternate and more parsimonious explanations like simple distraction.

If I get rejected I ruminate on it. This would consume cognitive resources and impact my performance on any subsequent intelligence or analytical reasoning testing.

I am also astounded that a study this brutal got past the ethical review process. Even just leading a research participant to believe they are going to be rejected for the rest of life temporarily is a pretty evil manipulation. If I were a participant in this study I would have been pissed at both the researcher and the board!
posted by srboisvert at 2:29 PM on March 17, 2002

why aren't the number of participants in the study is not mentioned? how did the IQ and aggression scores rate among those who were "accepted"? this is some terribly sloppy journalism.
posted by moz at 2:39 PM on March 17, 2002

This is quite interesting. Some psychologists believe that the purpose of emotions are to appraise goals and so alter or completely change their priorities. In the case of sadness, it's believed that it can increase realism in an individual and also increase self-focus so that they can re-evaluate current goals and the reason for the cause for the sadness (Power & Dalgleish, 1997). Conceivably, this self-reflection could divert cognitive resources away from such non-important stuff as IQ tests, as srboisvert suggested.

This sounds very rational to me, perhaps overly so - and this cognitive framework for emotion proposed by Power & Dalgleish is not agreed on by all.
posted by adrianhon at 2:59 PM on March 17, 2002

That's it, I'm blaming every girl who ever turned me down for a date for making me angry and stupid. ^_-

So, how long until we see 'rejection overload' used as a criminal defense? "It wasn't my fault Your Honor, I felt rejected so I impulsively robbed a bank and my IQ was so low that I didn't know any better."
posted by SenshiNeko at 3:24 PM on March 17, 2002

the counter story. (NYT article)
posted by mhh5 at 3:31 PM on March 17, 2002

The more articles I read in the New Scientist (often breathlessly linked from /.), the more I think of it as a science tabloid.

Certainly not a place to get anything resembling reasoned discussion of new scientific research (are there any places like that on this here www?).
posted by malphigian at 3:43 PM on March 17, 2002

If a psychologist told me that the results from a test I had performed and he had conducted showed I would spend my life a miserable loner then I would conclude that:
a) his psychological credentials were shaky at best - no 'test' however elaborately-constructed can accurately predict the course of someone's entire life
b) his ethics were in even worse shape - presumably participants in this study were fully debriefed and reassured that they weren't total losers
c) that he was an asshole
all three of which would induce me to treat his subsequent 'tests' with the contempt they deserve. I mean, if you've just done his personality test and scored the equivalent of an 'F', why would you want to do his IQ test? To be shown up as an idiot and a social retard?
New Scientist is about as scientific as a goddamn voodoo priest. I did a (very dubious) test in A-Level psychology that showed a statistically-significant link between motivation and participants' success at ESP. I bet that pack o' sensationalist journo tossers would have an article knocked up quick as blink if I published my findings. 'MOTIVATION MAKES YOU PSYCHIC!'
Having said that, I read Men's Health, its sister mag, so I guess I'm a total hypocrite... ah well, I'll just keep plugging away at my six-pack... what's this? '3 WEEKS TO PERFECT BODY - THE BEER DIET'. ;o)
posted by RokkitNite at 4:14 PM on March 17, 2002

Rejection doesn't actually decrease your intelligence, it just reduces your ability to use it effectively, resulting in a lower IQ on that occasion.

People who are tired generally test below average too, but does that really tell us anything? When you're rejected, tired, upset, etc.. of course your score is going to be lower!
posted by wackybrit at 4:22 PM on March 17, 2002

IQ dropped by 25%? From 100 -- average IQ -- to 75, a dolt?

I'd doubt that, except that I encounter so many dolts in this world...
posted by five fresh fish at 4:27 PM on March 17, 2002

I've seen similar studies where lack of R.E.M. sleep results in lower test scores in math. Other studies have shown that those that listen to Mozart tend to score higher. It seems to suggest that your IQ reflects your concentration at the time of the test...If that's the case, then the study wasn't too far off, as rejection could cause lack of sleep and reluctancy to listen to Mozart.
posted by samsara at 5:15 PM on March 17, 2002

My girlfriend is just finishing her masters & going on for her doctorate in experimental social psychology. According to her, Baumeister is actually highly regarded in his field - this isn't a case of New Scientist picking up some fringe guy. (Although they obviously summarized the results drastically.) She also says that the study would have no trouble with the ethics commitee because all subjects would have the study explained to them when they were through & would be "reassured that they weren't total losers." (As RokkitNite puts it.)

I agree with what several people have said about the effects of the rejection condition in the study being short-term. However, I have to wonder about the effects on individuals suffering from what you might call "chronic rejection." If a student is regularly treated as a social outcast, can it affect his or her ongoing intellectual/academic performance? I suspect the answer is yes.
posted by tdismukes at 6:28 PM on March 17, 2002

If this were true I'd be the dumbest guy in the world by now.
posted by krisjohn at 9:24 PM on March 17, 2002

If this were true I'd be the dumbest guy in the world by now.

An alternate take. If you're smart enough to function and even excel with the millstone of rejection dragging you down, you're really much smarter than you think you are.
posted by kindall at 10:04 PM on March 17, 2002

i heart kindall's kindness.
posted by allaboutgeorge at 3:05 AM on March 18, 2002

so does believing everything you read.
posted by Satapher at 5:32 AM on March 18, 2002

I think if anyone could actually prove that anything (or at least anything that happens after the age of about 5) can increase OR decrease IQ, that proves that IQ tests are pointless and prove nothing.
posted by dagnyscott at 6:17 AM on March 18, 2002

First of all, I think it should be clear that the IQ score might drop, but not the actual IQ.

Secondly, IQ scores vary. Here's a nice explanation from the National Association for Gifted Children

No IQ score should be considered an exact measure of intellectual ability. For example, good guesses may artificially increase an IQ estimate or having a bad day may decrease the estimate. There are many factors that might make an individual score vary a little from one occasion to another on any test. These include anxiety, motivation, rapport with the examiner, and guessing. Hence, psychologists will most often present a range of scores. A psychologist is likely to say "your child's IQ falls in the range 123-137. This is the exceptional range." This range takes into account the random error of testing.

If I believed the New Scientist and Baumeister, then it would be possible to turn someone into an idiot by playing Mariah Carey really really lou--oh, wait. Never mind.
posted by stefanie at 8:24 AM on March 18, 2002

tdismukes said: My girlfriend is just finishing her masters & going on for her doctorate in experimental social psychology. According to her, Baumeister is actually highly regarded in his field - this isn't a case of New Scientist picking up some fringe guy. (Although they obviously summarized the results drastically.) She also says that the study would have no trouble with the ethics committee because all subjects would have the study explained to them when they were through & would be "reassured that they weren't total losers."

Since we are appealing to authorities now tdismukes, I too have a MA in psych (and a girlfriend with even more impressive psych credentials). Baumeister is highly regarded in the field by some people. Not everyone. Furthermore, high regard is no proof against overstated conclusions or ignoring simple explanations in favour of more exciting sounding ones.

As to the ethics, these studies do get approved at some schools. They were not at mine. I also find it unconscionable to inflict the pain of that kind of total rejection even just for the duration of their experiment. These researchers abuse their subjects and rely on their status as authority figures to first year undergraduates to insulate themselves from complaints.

Your a loser tdismukes.

(Note: that probably isn't true but I bet you felt some unpleasant emotion while reading it. And that rejection was just from a relatively anonymous person without any face to face contact. Imagine if you got that kind of feedback from 12 people you had just met face to face (and who were also undergraduates at your school in the same year as you). That might get past an ethics committee but not an ethical committee.)
posted by srboisvert at 9:19 AM on March 18, 2002

Drink beer. Poke smot. Get laid.
posted by uftheory at 10:37 AM on March 18, 2002

srboisvert - I don't necessarily disagree with you on the ethics of the experiment. I was just pointing out that a lot of schools do consider it within the boundaries of what's acceptable. My girlfriend noted that if she were doing the study, she would pre-select subjects by using surveys to pick out those who had not been previously excessively traumatized by rejection experiences. (i.e. avoiding inflicting the study on anyone who might be on the edge already from real rejection.) Since the New Scientist summary didn't include a lot of details on the methodology, we don't know whether Baumeister's team took any precautions of that sort.

As far as Baumeister's standing in the field, I have no real opinion (I only have a Bachelor's in psych. & currently work as a programmer. I keep up with psychology only as a hobby.) I was merely responding to people who questioned the validity of the work because it was being presented as a blurb from New Scientist, rather than an actual journal article. I figured many readers of this thread might not know who Baumeister is.

For what it's worth, my girlfriend also agrees with you on your alternate explanation for the observed results (i.e. - overload of cognitive resources.) Makes sense to me too, come to think of it. As I understand it though, Baumeister's body of work as a whole is concerned with self-control, so he naturally tries to work that into his theoretical interpretation of all his studies.

I am interested in the question of exactly where we draw the line on ethical boundaries for psych experiments. If we eliminate any study design which could make someone feel bad for any length of time, then we cut out whole topics of valuable research, which could potentially help other people somewhere along the way. If we allow studies which could make people feel bad, then what basis do we use for drawing the line? Milgram's studies on obedience would never pass ethics committee review today, but there's no question that his findings were important for the field. What should the deciding criteria be for research today?
posted by tdismukes at 10:51 AM on March 18, 2002

« Older   |   From David Remnick's analysis in The New Yorker. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments