dozens of cognitive tasks & questionnaires given to hundreds of people in online tests revealed strong relationships between cognitive performance & political, religious, & ethical views. how this relates to actual extremism is unknown  

original article: Zmigrod et al., 2021 (Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, B: Biological Sciences), reported in: The Guardian by Natalie Grover on 22nd February 2021

this story was in episode 4 #personality #extremism #conservatism

the error bar says

the occasionally-extremist Guardian newspaper reported on a study that measured more than 500 hundred people's personalities and cognitive task performance, then later measured a subset of nearly 400 on their political views

the very large dataset from multiple tasks and multiple questionnaires was analysed to create much smaller, more consistent sets of measurements. these measurements were then compared to each other to see if any of the cognitive task performance was related to the political views

they were! people with more conservative, dogmatic, or religious views tended to be more 'cautious' (i.e., slower), less strategic, and less forward-thinking in decision making tasks

are extremists worse at cognitive tasks?


this was not a study of extremists. the guardian seems to be making a little too much political capital out of this one

the study is, however, this episode's good one - a large, comprehensive dataset, very well analysed, displayed & reported. just listen to some of these stats terms: "out-of-sample cross-validation", "Bayesian model averaging" oooh, that hits the spot

what the study does show is that, across the entire sample of people studied, there are strong statistical relationships between measures of conservatism and cognitive task performance

but it's not justified to claim that extremists can't do puzzles, or that these tests would necessarily help prevent radicalisation, as claimed


not really


The Guardian: fair - scientific story mostly intact