The New York Times reports today on a study published today in two papers in Science (Science 22 June 2007: Vol. 316. no. 5832, p. 1717) and Intelligence: “Research Finds Firstborns Gain The Higher I.Q.”
The study could settle more than half a century of scientific debate! Frank J. Sulloway, psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, says
“I consider these two papers the most important publications to come out in this field in 70 years; it’s a dream come true…there was some room for doubt about this effect before, but that room has now been eliminated”
The average difference in I.Q. was slight — three points higher in the eldest child than in the closest sibling — but significant, the researchers said. And they said the results made it clear that it was due to family dynamics, not to biological factors like prenatal environment.
And that, my friends, is enough to make all the difference between a life in obscurity and the Nobel Prize:
“You go to a certain school, meet a famous professor, and the next thing you know, you’ve gone on to medical school, made a great discovery and won the Nobel Prize,” said Sulloway, who writes about family dynamics and personality development.
Here is my favorite part. The researchers – and the journalists – go on and on about “firstborns” and “siblings” and yet…and yet…the study looked at data on birth order, health status and I.Q. scores of 241,310….MEN!
The LA Times story (from whence the last quote) has the subheading “A study of 240,000 Norwegian men says eldest children have IQs 2 to 3 points greater than younger siblings’.” Here we are meant to understand, without pausing to notice or question, that “studies of men (only)” yield information about “(all) eldest children and younger siblings (of both sexes)”.
Because sex has little effect on I.Q. scores, the results almost certainly apply to females as well, said Dr. Petter Kristensen, an epidemiologist at the University of Oslo and the lead author of the Science study.
Okay, but I have a question about that older sibling – Nobel Prize linkage: What if she’s named Isabella???