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


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.


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.


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?


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


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


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


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.


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

Enter your name

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.


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.


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.


Post hoc ergo propter hoc?



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.


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?


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.


I think you may have overlooked a fairly obvious cause for this. Internet Explorer is available only on Windoze (AFAIK), most if not all of the other browsers have Linux versions. Linux users are more intelligent on average than Windoze users, if only because of the learning curve required for installation. (Not the only reason: I've never used Windoze much, 'cause it's such a strain to turn my thinking down that low.) Thus the base of non-IE users is stacked with intelligent people who don't have IE as an option.


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

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


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.

James Curran

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.


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.


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.


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.


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

Bill Rebholz

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.


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!


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).


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.


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