Latitude for Aptitude

Children from higher latitudes may have an academic leg up on their equatorial kin

Latitude-for-Aptitude

Ryan Cox / www.ryancoxusa.com

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The weather outside may be frightful, but that might give snowbound children a leg up on their peers in more temperate regions. That’s the conclusion, at any rate, of a recently published psychology paper that found a correlation between colder climates and smarter kids.  

“It turns out that those benumbed residents of Maine, Montana, and Minnesota have something to brag about,” claims an article on the Miller-McCune website (Nov. 17, 2010). According to a University of Central Missouri study,  states with cooler average temperatures are more likely to have populations with higher IQs—estimated from scores on a standardized test administered to students.  

“A significant negative association was found between state IQs and year-round temperatures,” the researchers say. “Thus, as environmental temperature decreases, the state IQ tended to increase.”  

This finding corroborates a 2006 international study that surveyed 129 countries and found that those with lower temperatures trended toward higher IQs.  

Although the temperature-IQ correlation is clear, scientists wonder why it exists. The international researchers speculated that evolution was to blame, arguing that ancestors of the frigid folks from high latitudes needed more wits to survive than their equatorial kin—a notion that, given our present malaise, seems at the very least arguable.

Cover-MA11-thumbnailThis article first appeared in the March-April 2011 issue of Utne Reader.