This study says you tend to overestimate your romantic partner’s IQ

Every new girlfriend or boyfriend just happens to be the best one yet; beautiful, charming and intelligent. Emphasis on the intelligent part.

It’s hard to tune out the wheedle of pseudo-exceptionalism.

Delusions of aptitude make us slow to reflection and quick to speak with unearned conviction. This conceited ignorance extends beyond ourselves even. At least once, I’m sure you’ve been the grateful recipient of the handsome words that accompany the “puppy love” phase.

Every new girlfriend or boyfriend just happens to be the best one yet; beautiful, charming and intelligent. I mean, could I be wooed by a simpleton? Absolutely. Your current dreamboat might very well be a witless raft, and you’d never know it.


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Errors of reflection

A paper recently published in the Intelligence Journal recognizes our tendency to overestimate the brilliance of our companions with the help of 218 heterosexual couples. The participants were asked to evaluate the intellect of their partners through an intuitive graphical scale (the results of which were later converted into IQ points) and the non-verbal intelligence test known as the Raven’s Advanced Progressive Matrices.

On mass, respondents overshot the intelligence of their partners by a lot. Men estimated their wives’ and girlfriends’ IQ scores to be about 36 points higher than they actually were, while women inflated their boyfriends’ and hubbies’ numbers to the tune of 38 points. The paper additionally indicated people to be generally more attracted to mates of comparable intellect. An observation that becomes comical in unison with the bounty of research exploring narcissistic ignorance.

In a separate study, even though the vast majority of individuals scored below 100 points on an IQ test, only 0.9% of women and 1.8% of men estimated their intelligence to be below average.

At some point, we have to wager our happiness against honest appraisal. Positive Illusions in Marital Relationships: A 13-Year Longitudinal Study, was published back in 2006. The authors gathered that newlyweds that were captured by intense illusions regarding the caliber of their partners were found to claim a deeper and more intense love with said partner. These relationships also tended to outlast couples that were well aware of each other’s mediocrity.

Many suspect crimes of ego to endorse such mistakes of value. Our lovers are a reflection of our own worth and taste; muses for our pompous inner monologues. I suspect the reasoning is sometimes less sinister.  Even though science has located love beneath the debris of biology and evolution, it still retains the power to cow us into intellectual quietism. When we find a person that makes us feel all warm and husky, we’re likely to be a little more charitable when evaluating their flaws. We might just as soon amplify qualities we independently admire.

Dutch psychologist Pieternel Dijkstra and her team of researchers recently concluded that gifted young people generally privilege merits of intellect over emotional compatibility when seeking a partner to settle down with. The data equally applied to the formation of platonic relationships as well. Intelligence is such a charismatic virtue and we all feel entitled to it.


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CW Headley|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at cheadley@theladders.com.