Intelligence – Why the differences?

Intelligence – Why the differences?


Looking at average intelligence from around the world one is struck by the stark differences between nations. Although these average IQs need to be treated with some suspicion, and they hide the fact that many people within these countries will have high IQs, they do pose a number of questions that need addressing.

Equatorial Guinea 59
United Kingdom 100
Hong Kong 108
United States 98


According to this study most of Africa has an average IQ in the 60s while Europe/the USA/Australia is around 100 and China, Hong Kong and Singapore is above 105.

So what causes these big differences in average IQ?

  1. Are they racial differences?
  2. Are they skewed by accumulations of intelligent people in some areas?
  3. Are IQs affected by diet?
  4. Are IQs affected by education?
  5. Are IQs affected by climate?
  6. Are IQs affected by infectious diseases?
  7. Are IQ tests racially skewed?
  8. The idea that there is an inherent genetic racial difference is highly controversial and debateable. The majority biological view is that race is of no consequence in terms of intrinsic brain differences. Studies of black Americans, while still showing a lower average than white Americans, show a great increase since the end of segregation and a raise in education and living standards.
  9. Singapore and Hong Kong are major centres for commerce which could mean that intelligent people tend to congregate in these regions raising the average IQ. Though this does not explain other regions.
  10. There is much evidence that brain development and IQ would be greatly affected by the quality of diet – particularly in the foetus and early years.
  11. Education is another major influence on the nurturing of IQ. A baby who receives greater stimulation will have greater brain development. This has implications for the way babies are carried and played with as well as early schooling.
  12. One theory is that the harshness of winters has had an effect on IQs. Well it would wouldn’t it? It would provide problems to be solved – clothing, heating, housing, food storage etc.
  13. Babies fighting off infections would put resources into fighting diseases instead of developing brains. The more infectious diseases the lower IQ.
  14. The racial skewing of IQ tests could well be responsible for some percentage of the differences.


The conclusions seem to suggest that IQ is not an inherent racial characteristic but closely correlates with the level of development of the country. In other words – the better the nourishment, healthcare, living conditions and education the higher the average IQ.

10 thoughts on “Intelligence – Why the differences?

    1. Thanks Cheryl. It seems to me that it is an area that everyone skirts around for fear of appearing racist. It does not seem to be so much of a matter of race as a matter of education and health.

    1. I think it is something that needs discussing. The racists use it and it’s about time we questioned why there are the differences. It is not about race but it is an indictment of the way the world is run.

    1. You’re right John. I’ve met some incredibly bright, sharp, streetwise kids who didn’t score highly and some who scored highly who didn’t have the sense of a wombat. It’s always they case with things that can be tested. They are always partial. The things that can’t be measured are more important.

      1. When I was ten years old we were given an IQ test to sort us out into secondary schools. I messed mine up. I later took an IQ test in the psychology department at uni and didn’t mess that one up.

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