Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Veggies more educated, less intelligent than omnivores

In the comments of a post at Half Sigma, a perspicacious commenter named Peter (unsure whether or not it's Mr. Iron Rails and Weights) writes:
Veganism is a way for decently educated but lower income people to distinguish
themselves from proles. If you're a teacher or an occupational therapist or a social worker making $50K a year being vegan makes a statement that you're not a
prole despite the fact that many proles earn more money than you do. Veganism can even be a way for an academic or professional in the $100K realm to make a statement that they're superior to the frat boys who went to B school and are now pulling down $300K as sales reps. I wonder how many vegans there are among the overclass? My sense is not that many.
The GSS only probes veganism/vegetarianism (v/v) in a single question posed in 1993 and again in 1994. Respondents were asked how regularly they refuse to eat meat for environmental reasons. I suspect the typical human herbivore's primary motivation for avoiding eating flesh is something other than environmentalism (ie, deontological concerns about animal rights, health or fitness, frugality, etc), but many, and perhaps most, non-meat eaters would probably include it among a host of reasons they abstain if it was suggested to them as a potential reason by somebody else. In any case, to the extent that the framing of the question skews the v/v population, it must be in the SWPL direction.

Despite this, v/vers are not the most vulpine swine in the barnyard. IQ estimates, converted from wordsum scores under the assumption that the mean white result corresponds to an IQ of 100 with a standard deviation of 15, by how often respondents aged 26 and older* refuse to eat meat (thus "always" identifies v/vers; n = 1583):

Avoid meat IQ
Always 94.8
Often 98.3
Sometimes97.5
Never 100.6

The sample size for herbivores is pretty small (42), but the gap between those who always avoid meat for environmental reasons and those who never do is not miniscule.

The above might not be particularly surprising (though it was not what I expected to find). However, in conjunction with the following table showing meat avoidance by mean years of education for those aged 26+, it is quite remarkable:

Avoid meatEducation
Always13.60
Often13.47
Sometimes13.31
Never13.13

As far as I am able to recall, this is the only variable for which educational attainment and intelligence trend in opposite directions.

The GSS does not allow for a satisfactory gauging of economic status. However, as measured by personal income, omnivores--who are relatively less educated--have a marginal edge in earning power over herbivores.

Consequently, I have nothing to add to Peter's apt commentary other than to chime in that Edna Krabappel would serve as a more representative vegetarian than Lisa does.

GSS variables used: WORDSUM, EDUC, AGE(26-89), NOMEAT, REALRINC

* Those under 26 are excluded so students still accumulating years of education do not skew the results of the second table.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

One has to wonder which direction causality flows in this case. Perhaps not eating meat is starving their brains of some essential nutrient, turning otherwise intelligent people into dummies?

OneSTDV said...

Someone on HalfSIgma's blog said:

"Here's how you know humans are supposed to eat meat: open your mouth." (I imagine he was referring to our teeth.)

bgc said...

AE said: "As far as I am able to recall, this is the only variable for which educational attainment and intelligence trend in opposite directions."

I am just starting to play with GSS - but I may have found another...

It looks as if responses to the GSS question WRKMUCH: "Compared to other people who do the same or similar kind of work that you do, how much work would you say you do?"

Looking at the proportion of people who say they work _much_ harder than the other people doing the job, among those with a higher WORDSUM score there is a downward trend, while among those with a higher EDUC score there is an upward trend.

Assuming that WRKMUCH is a measure of the personality trait Conscientiousness, then it looks that *controlling for a specific type of job* higher levels of education years correlate with higher Conscientiousness, while higher Intelligence correlates with lower Conscientiousness.

This would not be surprising. People working at a particular job would be likely to contain various mixtures of Conscientiousness and IQ - the higher IQ people would need to put in less effort to obtain the same result i.e. under-achievers. While the high-C people would be 'overachievers' who compensate for their lower IQ with more effort.

Of course all this assumes I have done the analysis properly, which is a controversial assumption ;+) ...

Anonymous said...

"Perhaps not eating meat is starving their brains of some essential nutrient, turning otherwise intelligent people into dummies?"

Yes. The brain needs fats (and lots of them) to function properly. I suspect that the rise of "autism" may be because of the low fat diet fad and how it has hurt developing fetuses and children. Young brains need fat to develop properly. Grown brains need it to keep healthy. Get your red meats, and fish, especially the oily stuff.

Stopped Clock said...

This post is kind of a ramble, sorry for polluting the comments section with bad writing but I think I make some good points Ĺ„onehteless.

Humans are unique in diet and cannot be fit neatly into the animal-world categories of herbivore, carnivore, and omnivore. We need a whole long list of proteins to survive, more of them than any other animal, and these can only come from eating not just meat but cooked meat from a variety of animals along not just vegetables but a variety of vegetables and grains, a categroy of food that didn't even exist before humans came along and created it. And for the little ones among us, let's not forget that we've devolved our breast feeding responsibility to the cow.

In other words humans are so bizarre that I have to simply reject all the analogies to other animals made by both sides trying to prove that we either should or should not eat meat. I think that it is possible to satisfy all the deitary requirements without any meat, but only because this is the modern era where all our vegetables are on steroids and we can import things from 10000 miles away and grow them in places they would never survive in nature. In the past, an all-vegan diet wouldnt have been feasible.

While there are examples of societies of people that actually are entirely veg (some people in India) or entirely carn (ancient Mongols, ancient Eskimos), I have to believe that they are actually all malnourished and don't realize it because they tend to be much shorter, unhealthier, etc, than the same people raised on Western diets. (Avg height in India is actually even shorter than China, yet second generation Indians in America are almost as tall as whites.)

I remember reading a study once which showed that vegetarians in Britain have IQs above 100 and vegans have IQs below 100, but the study's own authors admitted it may not have been a representative sample because vegans are so rare (the sample size for vegans in the study was 9).

Also, I think it's a basic human mental defect to assume that any unidentifiable health problem is due to diet. Just about absolutely every ailment has at least some people explaining that it's due to diet, even for things that are just about 100 percent proven to be genetic. Even myopia. And it would not surprise me if the people who believe these dietary explanations are below average in intelligence (no offense, Anon; although I dont believe autism is due to diet problems it's something whose origins at least have a considerable amount of controversy.) There is a pseudo-medical term called "orthorexia nervosa" for people who embrace weird and unhealthy diets out of a desperate attempt to rid themselves of persistent medical problems despite the fact that their friends can see obvious evidence that the diet is not helping them at all. I myself was like this for a year or so and then I got over it. It's a basic human instinct. I wonder if anorexics are also below average intelligence (after factoring out racial diffefences; isnt anorexia basically a white thing?)

ironrailsironweights said...

That cited comment wasn't mine, though I agree with it.

Peter

agnostic said...

Haha, I actually saw this variable before but forgot about it. AE to the rescue!

You could probe cause and effect by looking at the omnivore - vegan IQ gap across different ages. If veganism is depriving them of necessary nutrients, it should widen over time. If it's just picking out those who were already less bright, they should age the same.

There might be a serious confounder though -- vegetarians to me seem to be more of the yuppie type, not really screwing up their health a lot and probably exercising too. Vegans definitely do not hit the gym or anything like that, and probably smoke a lot more pot and do other drugs. They're basically the dirty hippies of our day.

Drugs aren't good for the brain either.

agnostic said...

Y'know another possibility is that, since they only asked these questions in 1993 and '94, we're only seeing what the super-early-adopters of veganism were like.

In the past 15 years, it's become more mainstream among the smart half, so today's vegans may be smarter than they were before.

agnostic said...

OK, just did it and made graphs. Will post at Low Carb Art and Science sometime today.

bbartlog said...

We need a whole long list of proteins to survive, more of them than any other animal, and these can only come from eating not just meat but cooked meat from a variety of animals along not just vegetables but a variety of vegetables and grains, a categroy of food that didn't even exist before humans came along and created it.

You are confused. Please, provide some proteins from this list you speak of. Or (more likely) you were thinking of amino acids, in which case I can assure you that meat has all the amino acids you need.
I also doubt you can provide an example of a nutrient provided by grain(s) that can't be found elsewhere.
That said, I'll second your general point that human digestion is weird and complex and that those who look for simple solutions and silver bullets will usually end up reaching the wrong conclusions.

silly girl said...

I am open minded, but skeptical that vegan/vegetarian is unhealthy. I have said before, there are too many normal people in India who have been vegetarian for many generations without serious consequences. Someone posted at Sailer's blog a link to bunch of inventions and innovations of Indians, so it doesn't appear to make you too stupid, not as a group anyway. I am open to data based ideas, but still pretty skeptical.

Stopped Clock said...

bbartlog: Corrections accepted. I have to admit I wrote that post without realizing exactly what vitamins are. Even so, there are some vitamins that are near impossible to get without eating vegetables and grains, aren't there? Looking up information on the Internet seems to suggest that to obtain the vitamins necessary to survive, Eskimos and to a much lesser extent Siberians and Mongols had to resort to eating partially digested food from the intestines of herbivorous animals, along with various organs (which are not typically considered "meat" in human cuisine even if they are for predatory animals).

OneSTDV said...

For a head's up, Geoffrey Falk wrote a scathing response to this at his blog:

http://www.geoffreyfalk.com/wp_blog/?p=641

if this isn't a direct link, see post entitled: "They’re ‘aving a Go at the Veggies Again…"

Anonymous said...

Stopped Clock,
I'm not offended by your thinking that autism isn't due to diet. But I do believe that starving youg brains of animal protein and fat can cause problems. I've got nothing but casual data and my own observance, but it appears to me that "autism" wasn't an issue before the whole vegan thing. It may very well be that diet has nothing to do with "autism," but having a bad one sure as hell doesn't help.

agnostic said...

Falk's an idiot -- scathing or not. Mangan took him down pretty well already.

Audacious Epigone said...

BGC,

I'm planning on taking a look at that variable in addition to the several others you suggested as plausible proxies for conscientiousness.

Agnostic,

I don't remember where, but you were the one who first alerted me to the variable some time ago.

Your post on the subject is part of this evening's reading. Just wanted to knock out a quick response to Falk's commentary.

OneSTDV,

He doesn't have comments open for the post, so I'll make a couple of points here:

- The study was not carried out in but only published in 2006. It was based on IQ tests conducted in 1970, apparently on people who were asked about their dietary habits in 1990.

- The total sample size for the GSS is 1583. He compares the v/vers from the GSS to the total sample from the Southampton study. So it was 5x as large, not 200x.

- Googling "vegetarian IQ" returns several pages discussing that single study based on IQ scores at the age of 10. Intelligence is still relatively malleable at that age, which plausibly fits with Peter's conception that v/vers tend to be SWPL-types who probably tend to come from middle/middle upper SES households but do not make the big bucks in adulthood.

- The GSS is another data point. No argument is being made that it is definitive. Why the guy is so hysterical in his treatment of the post is interesting in that he clearly repudiates the position he putatively holds, that v/v status has nothing to do with image, as he wears it on his sleeve as conspicuously as messianic evangelicals he ridicules.

- There are anecdotal accounts of exceptions to Peter's conception that are simply irrelevant and not worth responding to.

Anonymous said...

Upper castes in India are mandatory vegetarian
Especially Brahmin and Merchant castes, who make up 60% of the high IQ Indian diaspora in the USA

Caste rank is diet related
Brahmins and Merchants may not eat meat

Shudras ( peasants ) are ranked in the following order
1. Vegetarian ( also called Clean Shudras )
2. Eat Fish, chicken mutton

Untouchables eat Beef and Pork

Anonymous said...

The meat packing and processing industries in India should really try to redulpicate the creatine study in a South Asian population. Any indication it can raise IQ and they could likely create a nice chunk of market space among the academic credentialing obsessed professional classes. They seem to always be on the look out for anything that will give them a leg up (test prep seemed like a big industry when I visited the country), and this might actually work. Who knows, they might even be able to start a new meat chic status trend among those in these classes who want to stand out against the traditional vegetarian status hierachy just described.

rec1man said...

Any indication it can raise IQ and they could likely create a nice chunk of market space among the academic credentialing obsessed professional classes

---

The Indian mathematician Ramanujam, preferred to die than eat meat

More recently, about 20 years ago,
the Indian tennis champions Ramesh Krishnan ( brahmin ), was advised by his Australiuan coach to eat meat, to improve his muscles but Ramesh declined to change his diet

Anonymous said...

I'm not saying that vegetarian religious and status concerns are inconsequential but that their importance might successfully be counter-weighted by the high value placed on educational achievement. Of course such an effort might not penetrate among the brahmins who are more vested in the status marking and tradition of vegetarianism but that could even facilitate the dynamic among the other castes and ethnic groupings of a slightly lower IQ bracket who are looking to compete academically/mentally brahmins, or rather whose children are going to be competing with brahmin children. Why not reap the benefits of this resource your competitor is ignoring and turn it into your status marker? And with the right marketing it seems you could easily tie a push for meat-based cuisine into the the whole pro-west, pro-market liberization, pro-entreprenuer mentality that's gained so much momentum in India in recent years. It's often juxatposed against breaking with traditions, rural or otherwise, just add vegetarianism to the list. In fact the sharp resentment it would engender from breaking a long standing tradition could be beneficial in creating a new status marker, audacity can be important factor in propagating of a status marker.

"The Indian mathematician Ramanujam, preferred to die than eat meat"

Literally so it seems since a weak immune system seems to have played a significant role in his death. A pity.

Anonymous said...

Oh come on guys Ramanujan die of tuberculosis. Eating meat didn't save Kafka and it wouldn't have saved Ramanujan or anyone else. Silly.

rec1man said...

Anon wrote
but that could even facilitate the dynamic among the other castes and ethnic groupings of a slightly lower IQ bracket who are looking to compete academically/mentally brahmins, or rather whose children are going to be competing with brahmin children. Why not reap the benefits of this resource your competitor is ignoring and turn it into your status marker?
--

Hello, in Tamil Nadu, the meat eating lower castes have a 70% affirmative action quota against vegetarian tamil brahmins for 80 years and still cant catch up

In the Indian nuclear blast of 1974, out of the 12 member nuclear team, 11 out 12 were vegetarians
8 vegetarian brahmins and 3 vegetarian merchants

India has 3 science nobels and 2 of them were vegetarian tamil brahmins
C.V.Raman
and his nephew
Subramanya Chandrasekar ( the x-ray telescope is named after him )

Any random person in India, who is vegetarian is more likely to be upper caste, higher IQ
whereas a non-vegetarian is more likely to be lower caste, lower IQ

rec1man said...

The world chess champion, Viswanathan Anand, is a tamil brahmin and a vegetarian from birth due to caste rules

Anonymous said...

With regard to the intelligent vegetarians listed, exceptions do not necessarily disprove the rule.

Simina said...

Hello,

I've been a vegetarian for 8-9 years and had to quite because of health problems(anxiety/depression issues, was starting to sleep very long, worse memory, etc). I also know of other people who had to quite because they developed serious health problems, and a girl who developed MS symptoms.

I am now very skeptical of this movement, and I'm against the idea of people having to live on pills (B12, iron, whatever else is missing from vegetarian diets - we don't have an "instinct" to eat pills, and many people will forget to hunt down all these vitamins/minerals and take them regularly).

Do you know of an academic study that shows a gap in IQ/achievement/etc between ~healthy~ vegetarians and omnivores? I'm trying to do a bit of research on this.

I was very happy to see your post because it confirms what I've been suspecting.

Thank you
Simina

Simina said...

I should add that I'm of European descent and come from a meat-eating family.

Audacious Epigone said...

Simina,

I'm not aware of the name or link to the study, but Agnostic has talked about a study showing vegetarian IQ depressed around 5 points, with the gap significantly attenuated (if not completely erased--I can't recall) when the vegetarians regularly took creatine supplements. You might try asking him.

Anonymous said...

" but only because this is the modern era where all our vegetables are on steroids"

Greenpeace is a *REALLY* bad source for scientific information, unless you WANT to come across as a member of the Tin Hat Club.

Anonymous said...

" I have said before, there are too many normal people in India who have been vegetarian for many generations without serious consequences."

And the fact that India is one of the most malnourished and underdeveloped countries in the world didn't stick out to you?

You're really not much of a skeptic.

Anonymous said...

We need to take into account children who grew up eating meat during gestation in mother and also growing up in household and brain development and maybe filtering older candidates who once developed fully as adults after that became vegetarians or vegans by choice....what damage does veganism pose to a developing child's brain?