What Does Your Web Browser Say About Your I.Q.? (Hint: I.E. Users Won’t Like the Answer)

(iStockphoto)

See ADDENDUM (8-3-11; 9:13am EDT) below

A study by AptiQuant Psychometric Consulting finds that people who use Internet Explorer as their web browser are, on average, less smart than those who use other browers. As PC Mag reports:

 

Over a period of around four weeks, the company gave a Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) to users looking for free online IQ assessment tests, then recorded the results and browsers used for all participants above the age of 16.

Across the board, the average IQ scores presented for users of Internet Explorer versions 6 through 9 were all lower than the IQ scores recorded for Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Camino, and Opera users.

Furthermore, AptiQuant notes:

In addition, the results were compared to a previous unreleased study of a similar nature undertaken in 2006. The average IQ score of the individuals using the then-current version of IE was significantly higher than the individuals using the current version of IE now, implying that a lot of people with higher IQ are moving away from IE to other browsers.

There is of course much to quarrel with in such a study. Also: remember that IE is a Windows browser, so we are not talking about the Mac universe. As someone who used to use IE, I have to wonder: maybe it isn’t that less-smart people choose IE but that using IE is so frustrating that it robs people of IQ points?

This also reminds me of the research from a few years back about the socioeconomic level of MySpace users versus Facebook users — a finding that gets more and more interesting in retrospect.

(HT: Eric M. Jones)

ADDENDUM: It appears this study may have been a hoax.

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COMMENTS: 42


  1. BL1Y says:

    You’d probably find the same results by looking at people who use @aol.com e-mails versus @gmail.com.

    Isn’t IQ supposed to measure your capacity for learning? If so, it just makes sense that higher IQ people will adopt newer technologies and software.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 28 Thumb down 4
  2. jordan says:

    What about the effect that so many people use IE that the average is lower because of a larger sample size? Much like the effect Mac users benefit from because hackers have no incentive to go after 10% of the market share vs. 90% with PC.

    Also, it would be interesting to see if there was a social effect, like a social stigma, peer-pressure, or simply being trendy. Do I use Firefox because I’m smarter and/or dont like IE? or is it because I think I am supposed to because other people in my field use it?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 3
  3. Sonique says:

    People with a higher IQ will more than likely have more money. Confounding variable perhaps?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 12
    • Ryan says:

      All the major browsers are 100% free, so why?

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2
      • Matt says:

        But if you can’t afford a machine that supports a modern browser, or have a used one with IE6 on it…

        Thumb up 2 Thumb down 6
      • Tulika says:

        The only reason an older machine wouldn’t support an alternative browser would be an old OS. Even with something as old as Windows 95 you can get a version of Firefox to run (and run well) on it. Incidentally IE6 won’t run on Windows 95.

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  4. Caitlyn says:

    or that people with enough computer skills to find a decent browser are also better at online flash game type things…..I don’t know how they measured IQ, of course, but it does make me wonder

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    • Enter your name says:

      To find out how they measured IQ, try reading the sentence containing the words “the company gave a Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) to users”.

      Then go look up the WAIS, and discover that it is a top-rated, standard IQ test, of exactly the sort you’d expect to be given if you went to an educational psychologist and asked to have your IQ measured.

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    • Gary says:

      The WAIS cannot be administered electronically, so I’d suspect one’s flash gaming ability wouldn’t be a factor in the resulting IQ scores. An IQ test of any reliability (and Wechsler’s are considered highly credible) can’t be administered on a computer, as one’s computer literacy would impact their scores.

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  5. Carley says:

    This, and more so the Facebook vs. MySpace article, also remind me of your findings relating to childrens’ names – that those from lower socio-economic backgrounds follow the trends of those who are better off.

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1
  6. Smash says:

    I wonder if there is a correlation with age – in my limited experience, seniors are more likely to use the well-known (and automatically installed) IE for web browsing than younger people. If adaptive learning and reasoning decreases with age, then the IQ scores of seniors may also drop compared to the national average.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1
  7. TelliameD says:

    Post hoc ergo propter hoc?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HL_vHDjG5Wk

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1
  8. Jim says:

    I would love to know which browsers are used by those visiting the Freakonomics website. That information is carried in the user agent string and should be simple to check for in the server logs.

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1
    • James says:

      Except that some browsers (the Opera that I use, for one) have an option to identify themselves as IE, in order to allow access to web pages that supposedly only support IE.

      Humm… Wonder if the study took this into account?

      Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2
  9. MRB says:

    Unsurprising. People in to computers and software tend to have higher IQ; they’re more likely to look for a browser other than the default.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1
  10. James says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Disliked! Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 14
  11. Speed says:

    “There is of course much to quarrel with in such a study.”

    So much that I’m surprised to see it noted here.

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1
  12. SarcastiCarrie says:

    Some people do web browsing from work where there might be IT limits as to what browser you can have on your computer. My work only supports the Windows suite of programs and has administrator privileges locked down so you cannot install/run a different browser.

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
  13. James Curran says:

    Also, it should be noted that AptiQuant’s report is properly balanced. It’s the conclusions drawn by others (PCMag really goes off the rails) based on it that’s questionably. (Although enabling people to do that probably was AptiQuant’s covert intention)

    The only real conclusion you can draw from this is
    – Smart people know how to change the defaults
    – Dumb people don’t
    – Really smart people can find really obscure software to install.

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1
  14. assumo says:

    Maybe it is a matter of accepting the default rather than searching for winning alternatives. This is interesting because all of these products are available for free, so pricing has nothing to do with the outcome. If you had to pay for firefox, but IE was free, these numbers would probably shift in the other direction. So, all economic factors equal, the people who are more capable of assessing the functionality of an internet tool are generally smarter (given that IE is on the trailing edge of web browser development). I’d buy that.

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
    • Pete says:

      I agree; this seems like the simplest and most robust answer. I suspect you’d get similar results if you looked any default option vs. some alternative to the default.

      Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  15. ct says:

    Another huge issue wasn’t taken into account – many, MANY people don’t get to choose their browser!

    I wouldn’t be surprised if many subjects in the study did the IQ tests during work (you know, during little browsing breaks like mine right now :P). And at work, most people have to use IE. I am on IE6 right now, AKA the worst browser ever but not by choice.

    I’m not stupid, but I am forced to use a stupid browser.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0
  16. Nosybear says:

    So, could this be the first indication that Bing makes you stoopid?

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1
  17. Bill Rebholz says:

    It should not be surprising that users of the alternative internet browsers mentioned would score higher on an IQ test than would the users of IE. People who are more restless, inquisitive, and computer-savvy are the ones who would look for an alternative browser that may satisfy their demands. These traits can also be descriptive of people with higher than average scores on an IQ test. Meanwhile, those who are among the great mass of computer users (that is, the average people) would be content with using their default browser, IE.

    I assume your statement suggesting that IE “robs people of IQ points” has to be facetious.

    Incidentally, the only browser I use is IE.

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  18. Michael says:

    Seeing Opera at the top is no surprise. One of the hallmark traits of intelligence is curiosity; and Opera is pretty much designed to be highly customizable. It’s like a browser that’s also a toy!

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1
  19. commonsenseless says:

    This study makes way too many assumptions. First of all they dont tell you what version of IE was used.
    Also, I use IE9 because the new version has much better performance compared to Chrome and Firefox. Does that mean I’m stupid? No, because I actually researched about the Acid test among many other data before i switched from Firefox to IE9.

    Ofcourse, I’m not saying all IE9 users are like me but I’m just saying it is an absurd correlation when in fact there are numerous factors involved when individuals are making decisions. Facotrs more than just IQ.

    This is just the “hipster Apple/Google” attitude fad that everyone has been victim to. (atleast this decade).

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
    • commonsenseless says:

      Also, just because an individual is not into “figuring out the codes with his/her browser” does not mean that they have lower IQ. It has nothing to do with their curiosity levels either.

      It just means that they like to streamline their attention and resources in fields other than technogogy and web deisgning.

      Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  20. Consumer says:

    Selection bias: non-IE users are more tech savvy and more educated in my experience. That correlates with a higher IQ.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  21. IE User says:

    The study doesn’t seem to take into account basic differences within each of the (self-selected) populations, such as age distribution. I’d bet heavily that Chrome and Firefox skew heavily to the 16-25 year old population, while IE is over-represented in older folk.

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  22. Joel Upchurch says:

    At the place I used to work, the people at the bottom of the totem pole didn’t have admin rights to install software on their computer, so they had to use IE. Personally I use Seamonkey on my Nettop computer and Chrome on my faster computers.

    When I setup a computer for a friend of mine, I usually have the default set to Firefox or Chrome, so THEIR IQ doesn’t have much to do with the browser they use.

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  23. Padamus11 says:

    Internet Explorer is retarded.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1
  24. law says:

    I’m almost loath to post this as I could easily agree with the conclusion the “report” comes to, but it’s been suggested that this is a hoax – the AptiQuant site has only been up for a month & a number of the images on it can also be found on a French Research companies site – see here:

    bbc [dot] co [dot] uk/news/technology-14370878#

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
  25. Dhawal says:

    This story was bogus.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-14389430

    A story which suggested that users of Internet Explorer have a lower IQ than people who chose other browsers appears to have been an elaborate hoax

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0
  26. Mister M says:

    Such stories/studies are always to be taken with a grain of salt. Unfortunately most people here took it at face value. Now what? That reminds me of my college days when a psychology professor claimed that “upon graduating from this school you will make a minimum of $80K per year”. Of course we all believed him! I mean he had to be right, although deep down we knew something was off with that statement. Don’t believe everything you read.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  27. deepak says:

    IE IQ study was a hoax

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  28. Andreas Moser says:

    How on earth could you fall for this hoax? Do you not do any fact-checking before publishing something on this blog? This is not supposed to be another blog of a bored teenager, but a high-quality blog.

    And now KNOWING that it was a hoax, shouldn’t you remove the whole post?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  29. Lee says:

    Hasn’t this study been shown to be a hoax?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  30. hemp says:

    New research allegedly found a link between IQ levels of Internet users and their preferences for Web browsers adding that most people with higher IQ are moving away from Microsofts Internet Explorer 6 IE to other browsers.UPDATE It looks increasingly likely that the story is an elaborate hoax or marketing stunt. The full story is .A study by online psychometric testing company AptiQuant supposedly found that the average IQ score of the individuals using the latest version of IE in 2006 was significantly higher than the individuals using the current version of IE now.The study which used a Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale IV test and covered over 100 000 people showed a substantial relationship between an individuals cognitive ability and their choice of Web browser.All the respondents were from the UK the US Canada Australia and New Zealand.The research company said that a significant number of individuals with a low score on the cognitive test were found to be using Microsoft Internet Explorer IE versions 6.0 to 9.0.It added that there was no significant difference in the IQ scores between individuals using Google Chrome Mozilla Firefox and Apples Safari however it was on an average higher than IE users.Individuals using Opera Camino and IE with Chrome Frame scored a little higher on an average than others.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ’0 which is not a hashcash value.

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  31. Dave says:

    I use Firefox, but for the record, it’s all over the interwebs that this study is a hoax and Freakonomics bought into it. You just destroyed all of your credibility. I knew something called “freakanomics” was more concerned with branding themselves as hip and interesting than actually being a credible source of information. In todays world, second chances ought not to be given to inaccurate information posted on websites that try and pass themselves off as credible.

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